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Monday, 24 June 2019 00:00

Have you ever gotten up from a chair or out of bed in the morning, and upon taking that first step, feel like your heel has stepped on a tack? Many people experience a feeling of sharp pain which radiates into their arch from their heel and which does not allow them to put their heel on the floor. Sometimes they need to sit back down, stand only on their toes and use the wall for balance. If you can take a few steps, it seems to go away and lessen, allowing you to then resume your activity. Later, throughout your day and after a period of rest, it can happen again. If this sounds familiar you may be suffering from your first attack of heel pain.

Heel pain is a debilitating condition that affects day to day activities. Running and walking both causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.

Plantar Fasciitis

One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill-fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain on your heel.

Heel Spur

A third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.

Monday, 17 June 2019 00:00

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic progressive disease that attacks several joints throughout the body. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints. As a result, the tissue inside the joints, called synovium, starts to thicken and causes pain around the joints. The synovium is responsible for creating a fluid that lubricates the joints to help them move. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Women are almost three times as likely to have RA compared to men, and it’s disease usually begins between the ages of 30 and 60. People who have a genetic history of RA are more likely to develop the disease.

Symptoms of RA may include the following sensations in the joints: pain, tenderness, swelling, redness, warmth, stiffness, and loss of range. Swollen joints are a very common symptom for those with the disease. At times, it may be minimal, but it may also be very apparent. Another typical symptom is joint stiffness. Doctors will often use the direction of morning stiffness to measure the severity of a patient’s joint inflammation. Other RA symptoms include limping, anemia, fever, and fatigue.

To diagnose RA, your podiatrist will typically request x-rays to see how much damage there is in the joints. Blood tests may also be performed to show if there are any signs of anemia, or antibodies such as the rheumatoid factor. If you have previously been diagnosed with RA, you should know the disease may spread to your feet and ankles.

There are many non-surgical options that can be used to treat this ailment. Some of these options include physical therapy, foot massages, orthotics, bracing, supportive shoes, and steroid injections. Physical therapy is useful because it will help stretch and strengthen the joints in both the foot and ankle to improve joint function. Massages can help improve blood circulation which will be good for the feet. Choosing proper footwear will allow you to walk with comfortability if you are a sufferer from RA. Lastly, bracing will help stabilize the foot joints, limit deformities and decrease pain.

In severe cases, surgery may be a treatment option that should be considered. For those who cannot walk without experiencing pain and those whose deformities can not be managed with braces, surgery should be considered. Your podiatrist will recommend surgery if he or she believes it will improve your foot biomechanics.

Monday, 10 June 2019 00:00

Limb salvage is a procedure that involves saving a lower extremity from amputation. In podiatry, limb amputation often occurs as a result of diabetes. The fundamental goal of limb salvage is to restore and maintain stability and movement of the affected lower extremity.

The procedure typically involves removing the diseased tissue and a small portion of the surrounding healthy tissue, as well as the removal of any affected bone if necessary. If bone is removed it is then replaced with prostheses, or synthetic metal rods or plates, or grafts from either the patient’s body or a donor. Limb salvage is typically the preferred choice of procedure over amputation, as the procedure preserves both the patient’s appearance and allows for the greatest possible degree of function in the affected limb.

Upon diagnosis and determining that limb salvage is the appropriate treatment, the podiatrist may enlist the help of a physical and/or occupational therapist to prepare the patient for surgery by introducing various muscle-strengthening, walking, and range of motion exercises. Such exercises may be continued as rehabilitation post-procedure.

Monday, 03 June 2019 00:00

Trauma to the foot, especially the toes, can occur in many ways. Banging them, stubbing them, or dropping something on them are a few different ways this trauma can occur. Given the fact that toes are positioned in front of the feet, they typically sustain the brunt of such trauma. When trauma occurs to a toe, the result can be a painful break or fracture. Another type of trauma that can break a toe is repeated activity that places stress on the toe for prolonged periods of time.

Broken toes can be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. Symptoms of minor toe fractures include throbbing pain, swelling, bruising on the skin and toenail, and the inability to move the toe with ease. Severe toe fractures require medical attention and are indicated when the broken toe appears crooked or disfigured, when there is tingling or numbness in the toe, or when there is an open, bleeding wound present on the toe.

Generally, a minor toe break will heal without long-term complications. However, it is important to discontinue activities that put pressure on the toe. It is best to stay off of the injured toe and immediately get a splint or cast to prevent any more additional movement of the toe bones. You can also immobilize your toe by placing a small cotton ball between the injured toe and the toe beside it. Then, tape the two toes together with medical tape. Swelling can be alleviated by placing an ice pack on the broken toe directly as well as elevating your feet above your head.

Severe toe fractures may be treated with a splint, cast, and in some cases, minor surgery, especially when the big toe has been broken. Due to its position and the pressure the big toe endures with daily activity, future complications can occur if it is not properly treated. Pain associated with minor toe fractures can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications. Prescription pain killers may be necessary for severe toe fractures.

The healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. In severe cases where the toe becomes infected or requires surgery, healing time can take up to eight weeks or more. While complications associated with a broken toe are immediately apparent, it is important to note that there are rare cases when additional complications, such as osteoarthritis, can develop over time. You should immediately speak with your podiatrist if you think you have broken your toe due to trauma. They will be able to diagnose the injury and recommend the appropriate treatment options. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2019 00:00

The feet, being the foundation of the body, carry all of the body’s weight and are therefore prone to experiencing pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing foot pain, it is important to determine where in the foot you are experiencing this pain to help discover the cause of it. While pain can be experienced virtually anywhere in the foot, the most common sites of foot pain are in the heel and ankle.   

Heel pain can be due to a multitude of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and heel spurs. Pain experienced in the ankle can be a sign of an ankle sprain, arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, or nerve compression. In more serious cases, pain in the foot can be a sign of improper alignment or an infection.

Foot pain can be accompanied by symptoms including redness, swelling, stiffness and warmth in the affected area. Whether the pain can be described as sharp or dull depends on the foot condition behind it. It is important to visit your local podiatrist if your foot pain and its accompanying symptoms persist and do not improve over time.

Depending on the location and condition of your foot pain, your podiatrist may prescribe certain treatments. These treatments can include but are not limited to prescription or over-the-counter drugs and medications, certain therapies, cortisone injections, or surgery.

If you are experiencing persistent foot pain, it is important to consult with your foot and ankle doctor to determine the cause and location. He or she will then prescribe the best treatment for you. While milder cases of foot pain may respond well to rest and at-home treatments, more serious cases may take some time to fully recover.

Monday, 20 May 2019 00:00

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 13 May 2019 00:00

The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.

To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.

When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.

Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.

Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.

Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.

Monday, 06 May 2019 00:00

A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body.  In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes.  The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.

Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve.  A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes.  Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas.  Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.

Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up.  Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot.  An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.

Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed.  Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition.  The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.

Monday, 29 April 2019 00:00

While not a serious issue, toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition to experience. Toenail fungus is often caused from public areas that harbor fungi and improper cleaning/drying of the foot. Once infected, the fungus grows deeper into the nail and can be very hard to get rid of.

There are different types of fungus that cause toenail fungus. Dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds are the most frequent forms of fungus to infect the toenail. Dermatophytes are the most common among the three. Symptoms associated with fungal nails include the discoloration of the toenail, brittleness, and in some circumstances, a smell. Pain is rarely a symptom caused by toenail fungus.

Diagnosis of fungal nails is generally a rather quick process. However podiatrists will make sure that the cause is not another condition such as lichen planus, psoriasis, onychogryphosis, or nail damage. Podiatrists will make use of fungal cultures and microscopy to verify that it is fungus.

While over-the-counter ointments are readily available, most are ineffective. This is due to the fact that the nail is very protective and that the fungus slips in between the nail plate and bed. Podiatrists can offer oral medication which currently provides the best results.

Ultimately, prevention is the best line of defense against toenail fungus. Avoid unsanitary public showers. If you do use a public shower, use shower shoes to provide your foot with protection. Once you are finished showering, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet. Fungi thrive in warm, dark, and moist places like sweaty, warm feet that are left dark in shoes all day.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 00:00

Ankle sprains occur when ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. These types of injuries are very common and can occur in people of all ages. Sprains may range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage is done to the ligaments. If a sprain goes untreated, a more severe sprain may occur which can further damage the ankle. Repeated ankle sprains can lead to chronic ankle pain.

There are some risk factors that can increase your risk of suffering a sprained ankle. Those who participate in sports, walk on uneven surfaces, have a prior ankle injury, are in poor physical condition, or wear improper shoes are more likely to get a sprained ankle.

There are a few symptoms to look out for if you suspect you are suffering from a sprained ankle. Some common symptoms are swelling, bruising, tenderness, and instability of the ankle. In cases where the tearing of the ligaments is severe, there may be a “popping” sound when the strain occurs.

The RICE method is proven to be effective in treating ankle sprains. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest is important for treatment especially within the first 24 to 48 hours. You should also ice your sprained ankle for the first 48 hours for 20 minutes at a time. A small piece of cloth should be placed between the ice and the affected area. For the compression step, you should wear a brace that is snug, but not too tight that it cuts off circulation. When choosing a brace, be sure to choose one that is suitable for the type of ankle sprain you have. Lastly, you should elevate your foot above the heart as often as possible.

After you treat a sprain, you should go through rehabilitation to prevent the injury from occurring again. There are three phases to the rehab process. The first phase involves resting, protecting and reducing the swelling of the injury. The second phase consists of restoring the ankles flexibility, range of motion, and strength. The third phase consists of slowly returning to activity and maintenance exercises.

If you suspect you have an ankle sprain, you shouldn’t hesitate to consult with your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and a suitable treatment option for your condition.

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