October Articles 2013

Foot Rehabilitation for Athletes

It is hard to think of a sport in which the ankle and foot are completely safe from injury. Even simple activities such as darts and pool can cause injuries to the foot. When an athlete does suffer from a foot injury, he needs to find a way to get back on his feet right away. Immediate results may be desired, but they are not always possible.

Severe injuries require special attention. When the foot or the ankle gets injured, muscles surrounding the bones can weaken or atrophy through disuse. While the bones will heal on their own, it takes a more concentrated effort for an athlete to regain full use of his feet and ankles. A doctor may recommend that a person go through a course of physical therapy. The course of physical therapy treatment uses simple, repetitive isometric exercises. The use of the exercises will cause the body to rebuild the muscles and tendons in the area over time and restore the full range of movement.

When selecting ankle and foot rehabilitation services, an athlete needs to find a licensed sports therapist (other physical therapists work with more generalized conditions, and while these kinds of physical therapists are dedicated to their job, they do not necessarily understand the special demands of the athlete). A good sports therapist will take their time with a patient, and make sure that he or she understands the problem and the options available for treatment.As long as the doctor expects a person to return to the sport which he enjoys, the sports physical therapist will recommend the exact exercises a person needs to get back in the game.

Although the professional athlete needs a trained sports therapist, an amateur athlete or the weekend player can benefit from foot rehabilitation services for athletes as well. An ankle or foot injury does not have to cause a person go give up the game he loves entirely, so long as he or she seeks out a sports therapist.

Physical therapy can not always perfectly heal certain injuries, but it will more quickly and effectively help the afflicted person get better.  Less severe injuries may only take a person out of his favorite sport just for a little while, if he or she sees a sports therapist. As long as the doctor the athlete sees thinks a full recovery is possible, it is worth it to check out ankle and foot rehabilitation services.


Systemic Diseases of the Foot

There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis.

In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid, crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.

There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.

Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.

All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.


Foot Surgery and Related Techniques

Normally, foot surgery is reserved for cases, which other treatments have failed to succeed. Surgery may be necessary for many reasons. Surgery may be necessary in the following cases, but are not limited to: removing foot deformities (such as bone spurs or bunions), arthritis problems, reconstruction due to injury, and congenital malformations (such as club foot and flat feet). Among all ages and races, foot surgery may be necessary.

Depending on what is wrong with your foot, this will dictate what type of surgery is necessary. A bunionectomy is necessary if you have a growth, such as a bunion. Surgical fusion of the foot is recommended if your bones need to be realigned, or fused together. If you are enduring nerve issues or pain, you may need surgery in which the tissues surrounding the painful nerve are removed. Normally, less invasive treatments are tried first, but surgery is considered if all else fails.

Though surgery is seen as a last resort in many cases, there are benefits of surgery to fix your problem, if you and your doctor choose that route. The first benefit is that the pain associated with your problem is normally relieved; therefore meaning you can resume your daily activities normally. The second benefit is once you have surgery the problem is generally eliminated.

Podiatry history has shown that foot techniques continue to grow every year. In the field of foot surgery, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advancements. Foot techniques will continue to improve, as technology does. Many procedures require small incisions, and use better, more efficient tools. Because of this, surgery is no longer as invasive as it used to be, and recovery has become easier and faster. Therefore, you will be back on your feet in no time.


Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can be embarrassing, and can make life frustrating when sandal season comes around. But not only are they an aesthetic problem – they can also tear stockings, socks and even wear out shoes faster at the back, and when severe may cause pain and infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for many who walk a lot, who are athletic, and who have especially dry skin. Those who are using certain kinds of medication that will dry the skin, who swim a lot, wear certain kinds of shoes, and those who are diabetic may also have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors may have more trouble with cracked heels than others, since the skin’s production of oils decreases with age. There is no one way to get cracked heels, and there is no one cure for them.

Today there are numerous products on the market that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these products are over-the-counter and some come from a physician’s prescription pad--especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend for those with rough skin to wear socks at night when they sleep. This helps promote healing of the skin on the heels and helps any creams put on the feet stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

Using moisturizers both day and night is one way to help alleviate the dryness that causes cracked heels. Making sure that the skin is clean and dry at all times is another way. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before applying a moisturizer can also help, as many times cracked heels will not respond to moisturizers unless the thick outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. Lotion or ointment applied after exfoliation will be absorbed by the skin much more easily.

Eating a well-balanced diet with foods that promote body healing and balance can also help the skin – from within. Whatever is put into the body can either help it or hurt it and foods that give the body staying power will permeate throughout, especially through the first line of protection--the skin. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc may also help cracked heels.

Not all products that say they will help cracked heels actually work. See a professional for foot care if nothing being tried is working. A podiatrist or a dermatologist should be able to give information and advice to help with the problem.


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