November Articles 2013

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Biomechanics and its related study deal with forces that act against the body and effect things like our movement. In podiatry, biomechanics are studied to determine the movement of the ankle, toes, and the foot itself, as well as the forces that impact them. Podiatrists who train in this specialty are able to effectively diagnose and treat conditions that affect people’s everyday movement.

Regardless of your lifestyle, age, or any other factors, many people experience foot problems throughout their lives. Twists and turns, improper balance, and added weight are just a few of the things that can add stress to the feet and limit the mobility everyone takes for granted. Pain in the feet and ankles can also trickle up towards the lower legs, knees, hip, and even back area, all effecting the way you move around on a daily basis.

The history of studying biomechanics dates back to ancient Egypt at around 3000 B.C., where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Throughout the centuries, advances in technology, science, and an understanding of the human body led to more accurate diagnosis of conditions such as corns for example. In 1974, biomechanics garnered a large audience when Merton Root claimed that changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of certain conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination in the area. Due to his research, we still use his basic principle of thermoplastic foot orthotics to this day.

As technology has improved, so have the therapeutic processes that allow us to correct deficiencies in our natural biomechanics. Computers can now provide accurate readings of the forces, movements, and patterns of the foot and lower leg. Critical treatment options can be provided to patients now who suffer from problems that cause their biomechanics to not function naturally. The best results are now possible thanks to 3D modeling and computing technologies that can not only take readings, but also map out what treatment will do to the affected areas.

These advanced corrective methods were able to come to light thanks to an increase in both the technologies surrounding biomechanics and also the knowledge of how they work naturally. For example, shoe orthotics is able to treat walking inabilities by realigning the posture deviations in patients caused by hip or back problems. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve movement and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot, so speaking with your podiatrist if you have any of these problems is highly recommended.



What to Know About Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body, connecting the heel to the lower leg and calf muscles. This tendon helps to aid the process that involves movement in the legs, such as walking and running. Since this tendon is very important to providing mobility to an individual, if there are any injuries to the Achilles tendon they need to be addressed by a physician immediately.

The most common injuries that can trouble the Achilles tendon are tendon ruptures and Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendon is the less severe of the two injuries. Often diagnosed through MRI, Achilles tendinitis involves inflammation, an increased blood flow to the tendon, tendon thickening, pain that ranges from dull to severe and slowed movement. Despite tendinitis being the milder of the two conditions, it should still be looked at and treated by a physician right away, or else one risks the chance of incurring a greater injury.

Achilles tendon ruptures are much more difficult to treat. They are caused by the tendon snapping or ripping, with more immediate, and painful, symptoms. The results are immediate and absolutely devastating, and will render the patient immobile. Depending on the injury’s severity, treatment and recovery time for Achilles tendon ruptures often vary, which may take up to a year. Fortunately there are both operative and non-operative methods available in terms of treatment. A podiatrist can help you determine which option is best for your condition.

Although no injury is completely preventable, there are ways to minimize the chances of incurring an injury. Be sure to stretch out the tendon before and after physical activity as it can stimulate the tissue. Exercises that include squats, calf raises, lunges, leg presses, leg curls and leg extensions are all good ways to help strengthen the tendon.

Individuals who may overexert themselves during physical activity incur a higher risk for these injuries. This is especially true for athletes. Try to be on a cushioned surface when exercising, such as a mat, as heel pressure can be relieved this way. Occasion appropriate footwear can also serve to minimize the risk of tendon-related injuries. And of course, a healthy diet increases tendon, and bodily, health while decreasing obesity associated risks.

Visit a podiatrist if you think you have an injury in the Achilles region. Failure to address these injuries can cause further damage and complications that could even render you immobile.
 

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

A study conducted by Luca M. Sconfienza, M.D., of the University of Genoa in Italy focused on a relatively new treatment option combines steroid injections and ultrasound waves. This form of treatment was found to be 95% effective in plantar fasciitis patients in the study.

The plantar fascia is a connective tissue that stretches the bottom length of your foot from the heel. The condition of plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of this connective band, known for causing discomfort and pain while standing or walking. Although the condition can be treated, conservative methods may take up to a year before they become effective.

Conventional treatments include certain exercises, night splints, arch support, staying off your feet and overall rest. Previously the cure for plantar fasciitis was shockwave therapy, which directs sound waves to the area where pain is being experienced. Despite the treatment’s success it is considered painful and requires several sessions before any notable results occur. It is also fairly expensive and does not cure the pain for every plantar fasciitis patient.

Dr. Sconfienza examined the effects of a new technique that combined ultrasound-based methods similar to shockwave therapy, applying a steroid injection directly to the plantar fascia. This form of treatment is a one-time outpatient procedure that involves a small dose of local anesthesia. A needle punctures the affected area and causes a nominal amount of bleeding that assists the fascia in healing. This technique is known as dry-needling.

Dr. Sconfienza found that 42 of the 44 patients that were involved in the new procedure had their symptoms disappear completely within a three week timespan, including pain. “This therapy is quicker, easier, less painful, and less expensive than shockwave therapy,” Dr. Sconfienza said. “In cases of mild plantar fasciitis, patients should first try non-invasive 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.”



Geriatrics and Podiatry

Bone density loss, dry skin, poor circulation, and rough brittle nails are some of the common problems that can occur as people age. The effect that these problems have on foot health should be of particular concern in comprehensive geriatric care.

Feet that are diseased or injured have a negative effect on overall health and safety. Painful feet limit a person’s willingness and ability to stay active. Poor foot health can also cause gait change, which can lead to falls and accidents. Even though recovery time from health problems naturally slows as we age, many foot problems can be avoided altogether with regular prophylactic care.

Each day feet should be thoroughly washed in warm water. Care must be taken to dry the feet well, making sure to dry between and under the toes. Any left-over moisture can cause problems like foot fungus. After cleaning feet carefully check for problems such as cracked skin, bruises, swelling, cuts, corns, or other irregularities.

Examine toenails for ingrown, jagged, or split nails. Long toenails should be cut straight across. Never cut toenails at an angle or down the side as this may lead to ingrown nails.

Cracked and dry feet should be treated once or twice a day with a non-greasy moisturizer. Rub the moisturizer into the skin and allow it to dry before putting on socks and shoes. Sweaty feet can be dusted with a small amount of talcum powder. Avoid putting talcum directly into shoes as this may make feet slip within the shoe and cause a serious fall.

Wear clean dry socks each day. Not only do clean socks feel better on the feet, but socks worn for longer periods may harbor disease and odor-causing bacteria. Socks should not be so tight around the top as to leave marks on the leg. Socks that are too small can bring about bruising caused by pressure against the toes.

Wear comfortable and well-fitting shoes. If possible, use a professional footwear specialist when purchasing shoes. Do not walk around barefoot as this exposes the feet to possible injury and bacteria.

Good foot health allows a more active lifestyle, which improves blood flow. Good circulation aids in recovery from injury or illness, and is paramount to good overall health.

Serious health problems can manifest themselves as symptoms in the feet. The elderly should seek professional help from a podiatrist if experiencing foot problems like tingling, numbness, pain, infection, or a sore that does not heal. Taking care of these problems right away can avoid worse problems later on.
 

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