This Saturday we celebrate Veteran’s Day, a day to show appreciation for all the men and women in our armed forces who risk their lives for our freedom and safety. Unfortunately, veterans are also sacrificing their foot health for us. One study found that “flatfoot deformity and arthritis were significantly more prevalent in veterans versus nonveterans” (https://goo.gl/WX88Uo). In addition, male veterans have significantly more bunion deformities than male nonveterans and female veterans were more likely to suffer sprains. The goal of the study was to form guidelines for soldiers to help prevent these common veteran foot problems. Whether you’re a soldier or not, let’s take a look at how to prevent these common podiatric problems.
It’s possible for your feet to go flat of your own doing. This is called Acquired Adult Flatfoot Deformity (AAFD). There is no single cause for this deformity; it occurs from the daily wear and tear of walking and running, which soldiers certainly do a lot of. As we walk, the posterior tibial tendon (the one that connects the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot) rolls our foot inward and keeps our arches raised. If we overuse this tendon, our feet can go flat. Proper arch support through insoles, orthotics, and choosing good footwear is the best prevention method for this deformity.
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, but soldiers are particularly susceptible to two of these: osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs from the slow disintegration of the protective layer between our bones. It can take a lot to make this happen, but veterans have been through a lot. Post-traumatic arthritis generally occurs as a result of other foot injuries such as dislocations and fractures, which soldiers suffer plenty of. The best way to avoid giving yourself arthritis is to keep your weight down, wear supportive shoes, and exercise your feet. If you’re just standing around, get into a light lunge and stretch that Achilles tendon. Try picking up things with your toes to keep your joints mobile and healthy.
If you want to get technical, a deformity of the bone at the base of your big toe is called hallux valgus, but know them better as bunions. Bunions are tricky suckers because doctors still don’t know the exact cause. Some bunions can form from trauma, others are blamed on genetics, while still others can form from abnormal biomechanics. Shoes don’t directly cause bunions, but podiatrists still agree that a good prevention method is to wear shoes with a wide toe box that avoid squeezing the big toe out of alignment. The only other prevention method is to make sure you see your podiatrist regularly and especially if you experience any pain or visible deformity of your joint.
Female service members were found to be more likely than non-military females to suffer from chronic ankle sprains. Luckily, there are a lot of prevention methods for avoiding these injuries. Keeping your foot, ankle, and calf muscles strong can allow for better control over our gait and thus help us maintain a proper stride. If you know you are going to be active and you are susceptible to ankle sprains, you may consider wearing a supportive ankle brace or learning some new taping techniques on your next podiatrist visit. As with all health issues, it helps to maintain a healthy weight and get all your vitamins and minerals to strengthen bones and keep you going without injury.
Don’t forget to thank a veteran this Saturday. His or her feet have done a lot for you.
The MLB season just ended with a stunning Championship win by the Houston Astros, but the hitting, throwing, running, and catching of 7 baseball games can really do a number on a player’s joints and lead to tendonitis in several different areas. While most of this tendonitis occurs in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists the symptoms and treatments are the same as if it occurred in your feet.
Tendonitis is an overuse injury brought on by a repeated motion that leaves joints, muscles, and of course tendons strained and weak. This can occur as it’s own injury or along with an acute injury, but tendonitis is definitely more common in athletes and especially older athletes. Our tendons lose elasticity as we get older (like a rubber band wears out), so the more we use it, the faster this may happen. Tendons connect muscle to bone and work between both, absorbing and releasing energy on both sides to move the parts of our bodies. Because they experience the stress you put on your bones and the strain you put on your muscles, tendons are very prone to damage.
Usual symptoms for tendonitis include general and achy pain, swelling, and tenderness. If these symptoms happen once they can be easily treated with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). However, if a player develops tendonitis they would feel theses symptoms all the time and a chronic condition will develop. The longer this goes on the bigger chance there is of a sudden rupture.
There are over 100 tendons in your legs, ankles, and feet so tendonitis has many places to manifest. The most common types of tendonitis in the feet are:
Achilles Tendonitis: Pain between the heel and the calf
Posterior Tibial Tendonitis: Pain on the inner side of the foot
Peroneal Tendonitis: Pain on the outer ankle
Extensor Tendontis: Pain on the top of the foot
Anterior Tibial Tendinitis: Pain at the front of you foot
Whether you play baseball with your kids in the backyard or you’re walking onto the field for the playoffs, repeated overuse can lead to chronic pain. See your podiatrist today if you continue to have pain in one area. We’re here to keep you in the game!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and while the connection between your breasts and your feet may not seem obvious, those going through breast cancer treatment can tell you that one really does affect the other. Statistics suggest that 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Unfortunately, breast cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women than any other cancer, but advances in treatment combined with early detection methods have reduced the number of deaths overall and mortality rates continue to fall.
One of the most common treatments for cancer still involves chemotherapy. Chemo is a full-body drug, meaning it can travel through your entire body and find and attack cancer cells. This also means however, that it can attack healthy cells and cause some unpleasant side effects. One such side effect is peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral Neuropathy is the loss of feeling in the toes, feet, fingers, or hands due to nerve damage – in this case, from chemotherapy drugs. Symptoms of neuropathy include numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the extremities. This can lead to missteps and falls or cuts or bruises that you can’t feel and therefore don’t attempt to heal. Neuropathy is a progressive disease so if you leave it untreated, it could lead to permanent nerve damage. The good news is that discontinuation of treatment with the drug causing the neuropathy can oftentimes lead to the symptoms disappearing.
If you are experiencing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in your feet, there are a few things you will want to do to keep yourself safe. First, wear shoes or socks at all times, even when walking around the house. Make sure your shoes aren’t too snug though! Put non-slip mats wherever you can such as the bathtub, at the kitchen sink, or even in front of the washing machine. Sit down as much as you can and when you walk, make sure to pay attention to your feet to avoid tripping and falling. Look at your feet at least once a day and keep them clean and dry to avoid bacteria or fungus. You may want to talk to your podiatrist about getting special inserts for your shoes to help protect your feet. Also, avoid hot or cold extremes.
If we could magically kick every cancer cell out of your body and leave you happy and healthy we would, but unfortunately chemotherapy drugs are often a necessary part of breast cancer treatment. If you chemo drugs are giving you peripheral neuropathy, talk to your oncologist and then come see your podiatrist. You’ve got enough on your mind without worrying about your feet. Let us do that instead.
The flips, the turns, the spangled leotards…. That’s right, the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship is taking place right now (October 2nd-8th) in Montreal. While these ladies and gentlemen are incredible athletes and constantly amaze us with their tricks, gymnastics is a sport heavy with foot and ankle injuries. Let’s take a look at some of the more common injuries these athletes face.
The repeated strain of jumping and landing can mean very bad things for your Achilles tendon. This tendon stretches from the calf muscle to the heel and although it is the strongest tendon in the body, it is still prone to overuse injuries. The constant motion of running on pointed toes, jumping and landing during floor routines, and trying to stick that landing on the four inch wide beam all put this tendon under tremendous stress. Tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendon and related bursae sacs, can lead to stiffness in the calf and limited range of motion. Tendons may also suffer small or large tears, which can occur gradually or suddenly. In a worst-case scenario, the Achilles tendon may rupture completely, usually with a loud “pop” sound. Unfortunately, a ruptured Achilles tendon means surgery and long-term recovery.
While tendons and muscles bend and stretch, your bones are rigid and when young athletes put continual stress on their bones, stress fractures can occur. A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone brought on by repeated direct stress to that spot. The impact that a front handspring has on your body is incredible. Now multiply that by 50 front handsprings a day for months on end and you’ve got a serious risk to your feet. It’s a good idea to mix up your workouts or practices to give parts of your body rest. If your feet need a break, try a few days of practicing just the uneven bars. Proper nutrition is also a big contributor to stress fractures. If athletes are not consuming proper amounts of vitamin D and other essential nutrients, their bones may become more brittle and subject to fracture. Don’t try and just “play through the pain” with a stress fracture; if it grows, you could be looking at a full bone break which will mean goodbye to your gold medal.
Gymnastics is a sport that many children begin at a very young age. Unfortunately, when you add stress and pressure to already changing bones and muscles, you can come up with some strange injuries. One common injury seen in very young gymnasts is called Sever’s Disease. The heel bone grows faster than most bones in the body and reaches adult size before the surrounding muscles and ligaments do. When young athletes experience pain, swelling, and tenderness of the heel bone, it’s a sign that they are overusing this area. Luckily, Sever’s Disease goes away quickly with rest, stretching, and growth.
The beauty and grace of these athletes combined with the jaw-dropping flips and tricks have made gymnastics one of the world’s favorite sports, but for the athletes who perform, a myriad of foot and ankle issues and injuries can pop up. If you’re a gymnast, pay attention to what your feet are telling you and get any pain or injury checked out immediately. Your podiatrist can keep you flying high and going for the gold.
It’s strange that after all these years of blogging, we haven’t focused on one of the most common foot illnesses: hammertoes. When I say hammertoe, pictures of burly men hopping about and cursing after hitting themselves with a hammer comes to mind, but a hammertoe has nothing to do with hammers at all – except for the shape. A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of…you guessed it, your toes.
The characteristic “hammer” shape of the bent toe, usually the second, third, or fourth toe, can identify this condition. There is also a variation of this deformity called a mallet toe, which is a bend in the first joint of the toe (closest to the toenail). Essentially it looks like you have curled up a toe or two permanently. And unfortunately, unless the cause is remedied, it won’t uncurl. There are three main causes of hammertoes: the wrong shoes, sudden trauma, or a muscle imbalance.
Let’s face it, women are more likely to cram their feet into uncomfortable shoes for the sake of fun or fashion, which means women are also more likely than men to develop hammertoes. Just as waves crashing against rock slowly rub the stone down over time, so too will the wrong shoes forces your toes out of alignment, causing unpleasant side effects and potentially permanent damage. Toes that become bunched up inside tight or ill-fitting shoes can still give trouble, even when you switch to better shoes. Corns and calluses formed by constant friction make for unpleasant walking companions. Those with Morton’s Toe (a second toe that is longer than your first toe) need to be especially careful when choosing shoes as they are at increased risk of developing a hammertoe.
It seems obvious to say that direct trauma to a toe may deform it, but it takes a certain type of trauma to create a hammertoe. Those traumas include stubbing, jamming, or breaking your toe. It generally doesn’t just break into the perfect hammertoe shape though. Often these injuries can cause lasting bone deformity or lead to changes in toe flexibility or strength all of which can ultimately lead to a hammertoe.
Technically, all hammertoes are a result of a muscle imbalance. When an outside force (e.g. your shoes) pushes your toes in one direction or another, the muscles and tendons will stretch and contract to adapt to the shape. If they adapt too much and become loose or tight, this imbalance will remain long after you take your shoes off.These muscle imbalances may also be the result of a preexisting condition such as arthritis or be exacerbated by unrelated conditions like diabetes.
In the end, hammertoes are a relatively straightforward condition; things bend and stretch and if they are stretched one way too long it leads to deformity, thus, a hammertoe. Get these fixed as soon as you see them developing! If caught in the early stages, hammertoes may be fixed with protective padding, special taping techniques, custom orthotics, shoe and lifestyle changes, and exercise. If the hammertoe progresses too far, surgery may be the only option. Don’t let it get that far. See your podiatrist today about your hammertoes!
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