Your feet have a very important job. They carry you through the day, making sure you are able to accomplish all of your daily responsibilities.
Feet also bear the entire weight of your body, every day. As a result, you may develop any one of a variety of foot problems.
Heel, Ankle and Toe Pain
The most common foot issues are heel pain, such as that associated with plantar fasciitis, and acquired deformities like bunions and hammer toes. Foot and ankle fractures are also common.
Plantar fasciitis is marked by pain on the bottom of the heel. Three bands of planter fascia support the foot’s arch. Walking on a hard surface such as concrete, the foot naturally flexes and the arch collapses slightly with every step. Through this motion, the planter fascia tightens and supports the arch. This is the natural phenomenon experienced by every individual.
But, if someone is routinely walking or standing on hard surfaces, especially if they are carrying any excess weight such as a box of tools or heavy equipment, the planter fascia will become inflamed. This leads to reduced blood flow, which can then degenerate and become a chronic inflammatory problem. Plantar fasciitis may also arise due to certain athletic activities, particularly running and ballet, as well as being overweight.
Bunions and hammer toes are often a product of family history, but are made worse by wearing certain types of shoes.
Foot and ankle fractures can occur with overuse, as in the case of a stress fracture or during a traumatic event.
When Should You Seek Help?
In the case of something like plantar fasciitis, abstaining from the causal activity typically eases the pain over time. Unfortunately, if the problem is related to job duties, that’s typically not an option.
When the pain starts affecting your ability to move throughout your day, it’s time to seek medical help. Individuals are encouraged to consult with a specialist rather than a family doctor to get the best continuum of care.
Diagnosing and Treating Foot Problems
Podiatrists are often able to diagnose foot problems based on a clinical exam alone, but x-rays, CT scans or MRI scans are sometimes needed for verification or for harder-to-diagnose problems in the foot or ankle.
Once a diagnosis is made, treatment options can be determined. In some cases, a more supportive shoe will solve the problem. Arch supports are another inexpensive fix and digital toe pads can be very helpful. Oral anti-inflammatories and injections are implemented prior to considering a surgical approach. However, there are times when surgery is the best option.
If someone has a fractured foot bone that’s well aligned, that person doesn’t necessarily have to have surgery, but it’s easier for a podiatrist to predict when it’s going get better if surgery is done. If surgery is not done, a podiatrist is simply relying on that patient’s natural physiology to heal. As we age or as we develop other comorbidities, sometimes it takes longer for patients to get to that point.
Dr. Brandon Borer is a podiatrist with Columbus Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Clinic who specializes in conditions of the foot and ankle.