September Articles 2013

Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures occur in the foot and ankle when muscles in those areas are weakened from too much or too little use. When this happens, they stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Because there is nothing to protect them, the bones of the foot begin to absorb the full impact of each step someone takes. The added stress causes little cracks to form in the bones that are under the most pressure. These cracks are called stress fractures.

Stress fractures are common for individuals whose daily activities cause high levels of impact on their feet and ankles. Individuals who run, play tennis or basketball, or practice gymnastics tend to experience these fractures more frequently. Anyone is susceptible to this problem, though. Individuals who are normally sedentary and suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may get stress fractures. This is because their muscles are not strong enough to handle and cushion the intensity of their activity. Osteoporosis may also cause someone to get stress fractures, because the disease weakens an afflicted person's bones and makes it easier for them to break down.

The pain from these fractures will occur in the general area of the fracture. It may be intermittent or constant, and will cause sharp or dull pain along with swelling and tenderness. Engaging in any kind of activity, high impact or otherwise, will aggravate the pain. If the intensity of the activity increases before the stress fracture has properly healed, it can cause a full fracture. This is a much more serious problem, and will probably prevent you from applying any pressure on the foot at all.

Treatment can vary depending on the individual and the degree of injury. The primary way to treat a stress fracture is to rest the hurt foot. Some fractures will heal quickly with only a little bit of rest, while others may require a long rest period and the use of crutches. Under certain circumstances, surgery may be required to install support pins around the fracture to assist in healing.

In order to avoid getting stress fractures, make sure to get plenty of calcium and Vitamin-D. They will help to keep your bones strong, and make them less likely to break under pressure. If your new exercise regimen is running or some other kind of high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up muscle strength. For example, if you plan to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some days to take the stress off of your feet. Make sure to wear supportive shoes to better protect you feet.

If you begin to experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If the symptoms do not go away, see an orthopedic specialist. Remembering these tips can help you prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue living normally.


Broken Foot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A broken foot is when one of the bones located in the foot fractures, or breaks. About 10% of broken bones occur in the foot.

Bones typically break when an object crushes, bends, or stretches the bone. In the foot, the location of the broken bone is usually indicative of how the break occurred. Toes usually break when something hard and solid is kicked with great force. Broken Heels are usually a result of falling from a great height and landing on the feet. Other broken bones in the feet can occur because of a twisted or sprained ankle. Most of the time, a broken foot results from a sudden accident or injury. Sometimes small cracks can form over time in the bones of the feet from repeated stress. These cracks are called stress fractures and usually only occur in athletes that put a lot of pressure on their feet, like runners, dancers, and gymnasts.

Symptoms of a broken foot typically include pain, swelling, bruising, and redness. Occasionally the pain of a broken foot may be so severe that walking is not an option. However, this depends on the location of the broken bone within the foot. Broken toes are usually less painful than broken heels or other bones within the foot. A foot that is blue, numb, cold, misshapen, cut or deformed can occur in more serious cases of broken feet. Those who are experiencing any of these symptoms, or suspect that they have a broken foot, should seek medical attention in a center where x-rays can be performed. 

Prior to seeking the attention of a doctor, several steps can be taken at home in order to reduce pain and swelling. Stabilization and elevation of the broken foot should be the number one priority. It is important not to move the foot, so any type of homemade splint will work well. However, any splint that causes the foot to become more painful, or cut off blood circulation should be removed. Ice can also decrease swelling and alleviate some of the pain that a broken foot can cause.

In a medical center, treatment for a broken bone will differ depending on which bone in the foot is fractured and depending on what caused the break. Some broken feet will require the patient to use crutches, while others will require splits or casts. More severe cases may require surgery on the foot to repair the broken bone or bones.


What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?

Orthotics is a medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and use of aids used to support weak limbs or direct the proper function of limbs, in this case the foot and ankle. Ankle-foot orthotics, or AFOs, are braces worn at the ankle that encompass some or all of the foot. Diseases that affect the musculature or weaken the affected area require AFOs to strengthen the muscles or train in the proper direction. Tight muscles that need to be lengthened and loosened also benefit from AFOs.

When we think of diseases that affect the musculature we think of the big boys: muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, polio and multiple sclerosis. We rarely think that arthritis and stroke can affect the musculature or that there are some who "toe in". But whatever trauma affects that musculature, there is a way to correct it. The orthosis helps to control range of motion, provide support by stabilizing walk, correct deformities and manage pain load. A podiatrist would be consulted for those who "toe in", for instance, or an arthritis sufferer whose ankles suffer through walking on the job or perhaps a victim of stroke whose musculature is wasting away and requires strength.

Before the advent of modern orthotic devices, it wasn’t uncommon to see polio victims wearing metal braces from mid thigh to the bottom of the foot, or children who "toed in" wearing metal braces around their ankle and foot. However, both designs and materials have improved dramatically, allowing for new levels of comfort, functionality, and appearance. Many orthotics are now made from plastics in the shape of an L and designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These can be rigid, buckling at the calf and extending the length of the foot to support the ankle. This same design except with a hinged ankle provides support while walking by normalizing the gait. In the past boots lined with leather and fiberboard provided the rigidity needed for correction and support. Now corrective shoes are available with built up soles to correct the gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area when the foot spreads during walking.

The podiatrist would prescribe this orthosis in the rigid L shape because the foot moves on a hinge. If the hinge isn't functioning as intended due to an injury or malformation, the muscles tighten up, thus making it difficult to flex the foot. When we walk, the foot flexes and muscles stretch. This brace or AFO would support the ankle and musculature during flexion of the foot, in much the same way a knee brace works. Corrective shoes are for people whose feet hit the ground backward, causing tight muscles and arch problems. Wedges and rocker bars on the heels correct the step to heel first and rock onto the ball of the foot, resulting in relaxed musculature and strengthened ankles.

Appearance also counts when we consider a particular support device, especially if the item is intended for regular, daily wear. The L shaped orthotic is contoured to the calf and flesh-colored, fitting into a sneaker or dress shoe. As present, corrective shoes are more attractive than past models, enabling patients wear such devices with greater comfort and confidence.


Flip-flops and Feet

Flip-flops are some of the most comfortable and convenient kinds of shoes there are. They let you freely move your toes, aren't constrictive, and allow your feet to breathe. They can also be worn with almost any attire, and match most clothing styles. Unfortunately, wearing flip-flops can also be very dangerous. These sorts of shoes can harm your feet in more ways than you may think.

Although they are comfortable, constant flip-flop use can lead to problems with the ankles, hips, and lower back if worn on a long-term basis. This is because people walk much differently in flip-flops than they do in other shoes like sneakers. Their natural gait is being forced to change, throwing the body off and causing stress to different parts of the body. Flip-flops can also lead to problems in the arches of your feet, and pain in the balls of your feet. There is little to no support provided by flip-flops, so some parts of the foot undergo much more stress than normal.

Flip-flops can cause more obvious short term problems as well, like ankle sprains and frequent blisters. Because these shoes are relatively weak and can easily bend while walking, wearers are far more likely to trip and hurt their ankles. Flip-flops can also cause bad blisters, because their straps are constantly rubbing up against the foot. Additionally, someone wearing flip-flops is more prone to infections, due to the openness of the shoe. It very easy to scrape and cut your foot when wearing flip-flops because they offer little protection for the foot. If left untreated and uncovered, these same cuts can get dirtied and infected as flip-flops wearers walk around.

In order to avoid this, make sure to get a pair of flip-flops that will keep your feet as safe as possible. When looking to purchase flip-flops, you should check that the actual sole is sturdy and firm. The flip-flops are too floppy if the sole droops and wiggles a great deal when lifted off the floor. These will offer very little support, and may lead to other problems like tripping.

If you only purchase flip-flops made of high quality, sturdy materials, you won't have to worry about this. Although they will cost a little more, flip-flops made of these materials will last longer, and will protect your feet more so than a cheap pair of flip-flops. Also, make sure to buy from a reliable brand name. You can often find relatively cheap shoes from these companies, and once you have bought them you know they will last.

You can still wear your favorite flip-flops, just avoid wearing them every day of the week, or for extended periods of time. It is also recommended that you replace flip-flops every three or four months, in order to be sure that they provide maximum protection to your feet.


Getting the Right Shoe Size: To Keep Your Feet Happy

Surprisingly, many people are currently walking around with the wrong fitting shoes. Picking the right shoes is not hard, but there are a few things to remember in picking the right ones.

Shoe stores have tools to measure your feet, such as rulers. These can give you a pretty exact measurement. Measure your foot with your shoe on, because measuring your foot only will give you a different size, therefore, you will need to add 1-2 inches onto the size.

Making sure there is wiggle room in your shoes is important, so your toes are not cramped. There should be approximately an inch between your toes and the tip of your shoe.  If you experience foot pain, swelling, or blisters, you know your shoes are too tight.

With regarding to your size, do not always assume you are the same size. Manufacturers sometimes run differently, therefore occasionally making your size different from place to place. Always make sure the stores you buy from have return policies, incase you need to make a return or exchange.

It is recommended you purchase shoes later in the day, rather than in the morning. Your feet are known to swell as the day goes on. So, buying shoes in the morning may become snug by the afternoon. Furthermore, make sure you purchase the right sizes for both feet. It is not uncommon to have a foot be larger than the other, and some people need to make accommodations because of this.

Lastly, a big concern in buying shoes is making sure they are comfortable. People think that though their shoes may not be comfortable right away, they can be ‘broken in’. This is not such a thing. If they don’t feel comfortable, they more than likely won’t, even after being worn. Comfort is certainly the ultimate goal in purchasing shoes.

Since we as humans do a lot of walking, it is essential that we pick the best shoes for our lifestyle. Proper sized shoes will only be beneficial to you and your feet.



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