February Articles 2015

Biomechanics in Podiatry

Podiatric biomechanics is a particular sector of specialty podiatry with licensed practitioners who are trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and lower leg. Biomechanics deals with the forces that act against the body causing an interference with the biological structure and focuses on the movement of the ankle, the foot and the forces that interact with them.

At some time in our lives we will all experience foot problems, regardless of our lifestyle or age, and we all take our mobility for granted until we are in pain. Twists or turns can cause problems and apply stress to the feet, and that pain will spread from the foot structure to the surrounding tissues. The pain will concentrate in the foot and ankle, but may eventually spread up into the knees, hips and back.

The history of biomechanics dates back to the BC era in Egypt where evidence of professional foot care has been recorded. Afterwards, during the first century AD, corns on feet were recorded as specifically growing on feet and toes. In 1974 biomechanics gained a higher profile from the studies of Merton Root, who claimed that by changing or controlling the forces between the ankle and the foot, corrections of conditions could be implemented to gain strength and coordination to the area. His basic principles of thermoplastic foot orthotics are still in use throughout the industry today.

Modern technology improvements are based on past theories and therapeutic processes providing a better understanding of podiatry concepts for biomechanics. Computers provide accurate determinations about the forces, movements and patterns of the foot and lower legs with the most important information captured. Today’s knowledge of detailed measurement of external and internal forces in the foot is critical to the individual’s treatment. Like most health industries, precise determinations assist the practitioner in diagnosing and prescribing the best treatment for health improving results.

Advances in materials and more awareness of biomechanics have developed enhanced corrective methods, offering further options for foot-related injuries. Shoe orthotics options have expanded to treat walking inability, helping to realign the posture deviations caused by hip or back health occurrences. Attention to posture and foot mechanics uses individual insoles to position the foot, aligning the ankle and leg. The corrected positioning comforts the pressure and helps to ease the pain. Understanding foot biomechanics can help improve and eliminate pain, stopping further stress to the foot. However, these results can only happen if one seeks a podiatrist who specializes in biomechanics.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can be quite the painful experience. Often times the injured person will experience limited mobility, swelling, and, depending on the severity, discoloration of the skin. This type of injury takes place when the ligaments are torn or stretched beyond their limits. Although this can occur in various areas of the body, the ankle is the most common site for a sprain.

There are multiple ways that the ankle can become injured like this. However, the simple act of walking may cause a sprain. If footing is lost or the person is walking on uneven terrain, local damage may occur. This may be especially so for athletes that continually push their limits, or for the person who has suffered from a previous accident involving the lower extremities.

In the majority of cases, medical attention is not required for a sprained ankle. Remedies for self-care at home include propping the ankle up, applying ice packs as needed, and remaining off your feet. Some may also find that wrapping with an ACE bandage and taking over-the-counter pain relievers are helpful. One of the most important things is to avoid further stress to the affected area.

Although rare, complications may arise and obtaining medical treatment may become necessary. A severe sprain can actually tear the ligament and even damage the muscle. When this occurs, the person may have to be off their feet for a prolonged period of time. Depending on the severity and nature of the damage, surgery and physical therapy may be required. Seeking out a podiatrist will help in making these decisions.

Sprained ankles are painful in nature, but those with severe unrelenting pain may have sustained a worse injury than previously though. If walking becomes too painful for the person to take more than a few steps, swelling becomes too severe, or if numbness or tingling is present, immediate medical attention should be sought. Mild to moderate bruising is common with a sprain but redness of the skin or worsening of the discoloration should not persist either.

One of the best treatments for an ankle sprain is to prevent it in the first place. Wearing appropriate shoes for the occasion, stretching before exercises and sports, and knowing your limits can aid in prevention. Those that have suffered from a previous sprain may want to consider additional support, such as a brace and regular exercises to strengthen the ankle.

What are Achilles Tendon Injuries

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the human body. Its purpose is to connect the lower leg muscles and calf to the heel of the foot. This tendon is responsible for facilitating all types of movement, like walking and running. Since this tendon provides an enormous amount of mobility to an individual, any injuries inflicted to this tissue should be immediately brought up with a physician to prevent further damage.

The most common injuries that can trouble the Achilles tendon are tendon ruptures and Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis is the milder of the two injuries and can be recognized by the following symptoms: inflammation, dull to severe pain, an increased flow of blood to the tendon, thickening of the tendon, and slower movement time. Tendinitis can be treated via several methods and is often diagnosed by an MRI.

An Achilles tendon rupture is trickier to heal, and is by far the most painful injury. It is caused by the tendon ripping or completely snapping. The results are immediate and absolutely devastating, and will render the patient immobile. If a rupture or tear occurs, operative and non-operative methods are available. Once the treatment begins, depending on the severity of the injury, recovery time for these types of issues can take up to a year.

Simple preventative measures can be taken as a means to avoid both injuries. Prior to any movement, taking a few minutes to stretch out the tendon is a great way to stimulate the tissue. Calf raises, squats, leg curls, leg extensions, leg raises, lunges, and leg presses are all suggested ways to help strengthen the lower legs and promote Achilles tendon health.

Many problems arise among athletes and people who overexert themselves while exercising or who do not properly warm up before beginning an activity. Proper, comfortable shoes that fit correctly can also decrease tendon injuries. Some professionals also suggest that when exercising, you should make sure that the floor you are on is cushioned or has a mat, as this will relieve pressure on the heels. As always, a healthy diet will also increase tendon health.

It is very important to seek out a podiatrist if you believe you have an injury in the Achilles region because further damage could result in severe complications that would make being mobile difficult, if not impossible.

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Poor Blood Circulation in the Feet

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a build up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque build up or atherosclerosis can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream, which restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives, causing degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as damage to or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.

The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions (heart attack, stroke, etc.). Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age (over 50) can also increase risk.

If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely -- this will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet (which come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc.) can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.