Our feet have more than what you see with your naked eyes. Apart from the bones and joints, you can feel with a touch, there are ligaments and a network of tendons.
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or you’re struggling to do your everyday activities due to pain in the feet, there is a problem. Pain signifies that something is wrong. Hence, don’t just bear with the pain until the situation gets out of hand while you can get medical help.
In the initial visit, the foot doctor will perform various tests such as vascular, neurological, dermatological, orthotic, musculoskeletal, biomechanical and footwear assessment. In addition to the patient’s medical history, the practitioner will come up with an individualized treatment plan depending on the patient’s case.
Treatment plans are wide range but the most common ones include daily exercises, sports strapping, foot care, proper footwear, injections, surgery, foot manipulation, etc.
Who is a podiatrist?
A podiatrist is a foot doctor also known as a doctor of podiatrist medicine or DPM. Podiatrists have initials DPM after their names. A chiropodist is the older name of a podiatrist and it is still used sometimes.
The work of a podiatrist is to treat the foot, ankle and the connecting part of the leg.
Just like other doctors and surgeons, podiatrists take a four years’ study in podiatric medical college then proceed to residency training in hospitals and clinics for another three years.
After passing the required examinations they become certified podiatrists and become specialists in foot health.
There are also podiatrist surgeons who are specialized in foot surgery. To become a podiatrist surgeon, one has to pass both general foot health and surgery for a foot injury and other conditions.
Although it depends on the country’s regulations, in most places, podiatrists must be licensed to practise. They should also renew their licenses every few years. To keep up to date with their training, they are usually required to attend special yearly seminars.
When to see a podiatrist
There are so many foot and ankle conditions that it wouldn’t be possible to list all of them in one article but here are the most common signs that should indicate the urgency to see a podiatrist.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain, particularly in adults. The plantar fascia is the thick band of fibrous connective tissue attached to the heel bone. The plantar fascia can get overstretched by straining activities such as running, long-distance walking or extended period of standing. Such activities can cause small recurring tears in the fibres that make up the fascia.
The first sign to know if you are suffering from plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain in the heel, especially when waking in the morning or at the beginning of a walk, a jog or a run. The pain will usually fade away as you continue with the activity. The pain may also be accompanied by stiffness if it’s being caused by prolonged standing.
A bunion is a painful swelling on the first joint of the big toe. It usually occurs when some of the bones in the front part of the foot move out of place. This results in the tip of the big toe getting pulled towards the smaller toes forcing the joint at the base of the big toe to protrude out. This can cause the skin on the bunion to become red and sore.
Bunions can be caused by wearing extremely tight shoes or get worse. They can also develop due to the shape of your feet, a medical condition or a foot deformity.
Even though bunions don’t require medical attention, you should consider a visit to a podiatrist if you are experiencing big toe or foot pain, you have a visible bump on your big toe joint, you’ve noticed a decreased movement of the big toe or you have difficulty finding a pair of properly fitting shoes due to the bunion.
Flat feet, also known as pes planus is a medical condition whereby the entire sole touches the floor when one is standing. You are diagnosed with flat feet if the arches on the inside of your feet are flattened to an extent of allowing your entire soles of the feet to touch the floor when standing. Flat feet can occur at various stages of life. Some people are born with the condition but to others, it occurs after an injury or in old age due to wear and tear of ageing. If you have flat feet, consider consulting with a podiatrist for medical advice.
An ingrown toenail is another common foot ailment. Although at times ingrown toenails can be seen as a minor issue, if left untreated, the condition can quickly worsen, become infected and be very painful. Trying to treat an ingrown toenail on your own is not usually a good idea. You need to consult a podiatrist to eliminate the possibility of infection and ensure the condition is properly treated without the surrounding tissue being damaged. This is not something you can do at home because you don’t have the knowledge and required equipment.
A heel spur is a bony growth that develops around the heel bone. Although some people have heel spurs but never know about them because they are painless, others experience significant pain to an extent that walking is a huge challenge.
Heel spurs can form due to many mechanical factors such as fallen arches and chronic plantar fasciitis. The formation of a heel spur can happen as a result of medical conditions such as Ankylosing Spondylitis. Some patients suffer from naturally occurring heel spurs that are asymptomatic.
It is usually caused by ill-fitting shoes and it can be very painful at times. X-ray is used to confirm the presence of heel spur in the foot and ankle. Some of the best treatment options include daily exercises, heel cushions, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, cortisone injections and custom orthotics.
If you are diabetic, is recommended you get your feet examined by a podiatrist routinely. People who are diabetic are prone to many foot complications the worse one being possible amputation of the legs, feet or toes due to infection. Seeing a podiatrist occasionally will help detect any problem before it worsens and causes infection.
See a podiatrist for healthier feet
Higher chances are you’ve experienced foot pain at some point in life. While some pains may not be anything serious, some are a cause for alarm. But with this piece of information, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to know when to take a rest and when to see a podiatrist. Again, if you can relate to any of the above signs, then it would benefit you to see a podiatrist to get assessed before it’s too late.