July Articles 2015

Sever's Disease

Sever's disease, also known as calcaneal apophysitis, is a medical condition that causes heel pain in one or both feet of children during the period when their feet are growing. Sever's disease occurs most commonly in boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 14 years of age.

Sever's disease occurs when the part of the child's heel known as the growth plate, or the calcaneal epiphysis, an area attached to the Achilles tendon, suffers an injury or when the muscles and tendons of the growing foot do not keep pace with bone growth. The result is constant pain experienced at the back of the heel and the inability to put any weight on the heel, forcing the child to bear weight on their toes while walking. A toe gait develops in which the child must change the way they walk to avoid placing weight on the painful heel, a position that can lead to other developmental problems.

The most common symptom of Sever's disease is acute pain felt in the heel when a child engages in physical activity such as walking, jumping or running. Children who are very active athletes are among the group most susceptible to experiencing Sever's disease because of the extreme stress and tension they place on their growing feet. Improper pronation, the rolling movement of the foot during walking or running, and obesity are all additional conditions linked to causing Sever's disease.

The first step in treating Sever's disease is to rest the foot and leg and avoid sports activity which only worsens the problem. Over the counter pain medications targeted at relieving inflammation can be helpful for reducing the amount of heel pain. Combined with rest and pain medication, a child with Sever's disease should wear shoes that properly support the heel and the arch of the foot. Consider purchasing orthotic shoe inserts which can help support the heel and foot while it is healing. Most patients with Sever's disease symptoms report an eventual elimination of heel pain after wearing orthotic insoles that support the affected heel.

Sever's disease may affect just one heel of either foot as well as the heels of both feet. It is important to have a child experiencing heel pain get an examination by a foot doctor who can apply the squeeze test, which compresses both sides of the heel in order to determine if there is intense pain. Discourage any child diagnosed with Sever's disease from going barefoot as this can intensify the problem. Apply ice packs to the affected painful heel two or three times a day for pain relief.

Exercises that help to stretch the calf muscles and hamstrings are effective at treating Sever's disease. An exercise known as foot curling, in which the foot is pointed away from the body, then curled toward the body in order to help stretch the muscles, has also proven to be very effective at treating Sever's disease. The curling exercise should be done in sets of 10 or 20 repetitions, and repeated several times throughout the day.

Treatment methods should usually continue for at least 2 weeks and as long as 2 months before the heel pain goes completely away and the child can resume normal physical and athletic activities again. A child can continue doing daily stretching exercises for the legs and feet to prevent the heel pain of Sever's disease from returning.

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.

All About Broken Ankles

Broken ankles are a serious injury that can lead to an inability to walk, function, and also cause a significant amount of pain. A broken ankle is actually a break in one of the three bones in your body that connect at the ankle joint, the tibia, the fibula, and the talus. The tibia and fibula are your two primary leg bones that connect at the knee, which sit directly upon the talus bone. This is protected by a fibrous membrane that allows for movement in our ankle joint. A broken ankle is usually caused by the foot rolling under or twisting too far, causing one of these three bones to snap.

A broken ankle is different from an ankle sprain, which occurs when the ligaments are ripped or torn but no bones have been broken. However, a sprain can still be very severe, causing bruising in the foot and an inability to hold your own weight, much like a broken ankle would. If you cannot stand on your own weight and suspect that you have a broken ankle, the first thing to do would be to get an immediate x-ray to determine the severity of the break.

A common way to break your ankle is to roll over onto it with enough pressure to break the bones, usually done while engaging in exercise, sports, or some other physical activity. Another common cause is a fall or jump from a large height.

Broken ankles can cause severe pain, but immediate relief can come from elevating the feet above your head to reduce blood flow to the injured area. You can also apply ice packs to the ankles to help reduce the swelling, redness, inflammation, and pain. After these initial steps, getting a cast on and staying off your feet as much as possible will aid in the recovery of the broken ankle, because the less movement and stress the ankle has to endure, the more complete it will heal. A doctor can determine if surgery is needed in order to heal correctly. In these cases, an operation may be the only option to ensure the ability to walk properly again, followed by physical therapy and rehabilitation.

It is highly important to determine if surgery is needed early on, because a broken ankle can become much more severe than you realize. If not professionally treated, the broken ankle will inhibit your walking, daily functioning, and produce a large amount of pain, so the quicker you act, the better.

Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is becoming a popular running trend that has been permeating through the running and jogging communities. The act of running without shoes changes more about the motions of your stride than you may think, and choosing to run without shoes is not the only adjustment you will have to make.

Whenever you run normally, with shoes, your heel strikes the ground first as you land while you roll over the ball of your foot and push off with the front part and toes. Barefoot runners actually land on the front part of their feet and not their heels, shifting the impact from the back to the front of the foot. In order to do this safely and without much injury, runners need to reduce their stride to create softer landings.

One of barefoot running’s biggest advantages is the reduced risk of injury. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress placed on the back of the foot, heels, and ankles. It also works out many muscles in the feet, ankles, and lower legs that you do not normally get to strengthen because of the different motion.  Your posture and balance are also improved with barefoot running, as is your sensory input from your feet to the rest of your body. Studies have shown that ironically, countries that have large populations of people who do not wear shoes every day are at lower risk for foot and ankle injuries and complications.

However, there is still some skepticism behind barefoot running because of some disadvantages it brings. One of these is the complete lack of protection for your feet while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and even blisters can easily form when you have no protection from sharp or rough objects on the ground. Landing on the front of your feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis because of the overuse of the Achilles tendon.

Despite this, barefoot running can be made safe and enjoyable if you make a slow transition from your normal running routine into barefoot running. You cannot simply start the activity out of the blue one day, but instead gradually work your way from walking to jogging to running, increasing the distance each time. It is also recommended to start off on flat, even surfaces that do not contain sharp or dangerous objects because your feet are now unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are a great middle ground to start with because they combine the protection of shoes with the fit and feel of barefoot running.