March Articles 2013

Pregnancy and Foot Health

Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting, primarily caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy, caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.

To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. Often a device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the arch of the foot the proper support necessary to support and distribute the weight of her body during pregnancy.

To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.

Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids in foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.


Plantar Fasciitis

Recently, a groundbreaking study concluded that their treatment combining ultrasound with steroid injections was 95% effective in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is a foot problem affecting the plantar fascia, a connective tissue in the heel. This condition is treatable, but in many cases can take up to a year to be effective.

Conventional treatments have included exercises, rest, arch supports, and night splints. If this proves to be inaffective, many patients undergo shockwave therapy. In shockwave therapy, sound waves are directed to the area where pain is experienced. This therapy can be affective, but is somewhat painful, and calls for several sessions. Even still, shockwave therapy does not always alleviate the pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

Luca M. Sconfienza, M.D., from the University of Genoa in Italy, conducted the study. The new treatment involves an ultrasound-guided technique with a steroid injection to the plantar fascia. It is a one time out patient procedure involving a small amount of anesthesia. Then an anesthetic needle punctures the affected area. This technique, known as dry needling, causes small amounts of bleeding that aid in healing the fesci.

It was discovered that 42 of the 44 patients involved in the study had their symptoms disappear entirely within three weeks. “This therapy is quicker, easier, less painful, and less expensive than shockwave therapy” Sconfienza stated. “In cases of mild plantar fasciitis, patients should first try noninvasive solutions before any other treatments. But when pain becomes annoying and affects the activities of daily living, dry-needling with steroid injection is a viable option," she added.


Hammertoe: No Walk in the Park!

Hammertoe is a painful deformity of the second, third, or fourth toe, frequently caused by improper mechanics—the way a person walks or the shoes they wear that do not allow room for the deformity. Similar to mallet toe and claw toe, hammertoe involves different joints of the toe and foot. Shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot, or have excessively high heels, can cause of hammertoe. Improperly sized shoes force the toes into a bent position for long periods, causing the muscles to shorten and bend the toes into the hammertoe deformity.

Other causes of hammertoe may be complications from RA (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or CVA (cerebral vascular accident). Symptoms of hammertoe include, but may not be limited to, pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformity, and calluses or corns from toes abrading one another.

A patient experiencing symptoms of hammertoe should seek examination by a physician, specifically a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat disorders of the foot. If the doctor finds the involved toes have retained some flexibility, treatment may involve simple exercise, physical therapy, and a better fit to shoes worn by the patient. Treatment often targets controlling the mechanics, such as walking, that cause hammertoe by using custom orthotics.

In more advanced cases, where the toes have become rigid and inflexible, the doctor may suggest surgery. The operation would consist of incising the toe to relieve pressure on the tendons. The doctor may re-align tendons and remove small pieces of bone in order to straighten the toe. The insertion of pins may be necessary to fix bones in the proper position while the toe heals. Usually the patient is able to return home on the day of surgery.

If surgery is necessary, it is important to follow the postoperative directions of your physician. Theses may include various stretches, attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet, or picking up marbles with your toes. Striving to wear shoes with low heels and ample toe space will ensure healthy feet and toes. Avoid closed shoes and high heels. Laced shoes tend to be roomier and more comfortable. Shoes with a minimum of one half inch space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe will provide adequate space, relieve pressure on your toes, and prevent hammertoe from re-occurring.

Some tips on feet may include purchasing shoes at mid-day as your feet are smaller in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Ensure that she shoes you buy are both the same size and have the store stretch shoes at painful points to provide for optimum comfort.


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