Posts for: July, 2017
One of the best parts of freedom is the fact that we have the right to make our own choices and you need to be making the right choices to keep your feet healthy. Summer is a great season for runners, but if you want to keep your feet at their fastest you need to take care of yourself. Here are some quick tips for running in the summer months:
- Drink water! Lots of it!
Dehydration is a huge problem when it comes to your feet. There are 250,000 sweat glands in your feet and if you’re running outside in hot weather, you better believe that your feet are going to be pouring buckets into your shoes. Make sure you hydrate before, during, and after a run, even if you aren’t thirsty. Also, make sure you rinse and dry your feet to avoid problems associated with extra sweatiness (like athletes foot).
- Breathable shoes and socks
Remember those sweat glands we just talked about? Well one way to keep your feet cool and dry is to wear the proper socks and shoes. Sweat wicking socks made of nylon, polyester, and wool will pull moisture away from the skin. 100% cotton socks only absorb the moisture, but trap it against your skin, leaving your feet open to odor, bacteria, or infection. Get the right socks and your feet will thank you.
While you don’t have to worry about your feet getting sun burned inside your shoes, the rest of your body is subject to burn. Not only does sunscreen protect you from harmful UV rays, but it can also help prevent runners’ tan (that thing where your feet are white below your sock line). Don’t forget to lather it on even for that early morning or late evening run. Unless the sun is below the horizon, you’re absorbing those rays and you need to protect yourself.
Running on varied surfaces can help protect your feet. Concrete and asphalt are very tough and put enormous amounts of pressure on your joints and bones. Running on dirt or grass is softer and thus gives you a more complete workout, but it takes a lot of concentration when you run on these surfaces to avoid trips, twists, and other ankle injuries. Overall, it’s best to work on a mixture of these surfaces. If you prefer road running, change one run a week to a trail instead. Soft surfaces absorb the shock of our bodyweight and stop it from being transferred up your feet and legs.
Why anyone would want to go running in the heat is beyond my reckoning, but if you just have to get out for your morning jog, make sure you follow through on thinking about your feet first.
Ok so I'm exaggerating, but the health of your feet is often a good indicator of your overall health so when something seems wrong with your feet, it may have started elsewhere. Let’s look at a few signs our feet may tell us and what they may mean for our overall health:
- Skin and nails
Many people have dry feet and we just put up with it as a side effect of our feet being feet, but dryness in not normal. If you have dry feet no matter how much you moisturize, have your thyroid checked. A misbehaving thyroid can cause extreme skin dryness and even cracking of the toenails. Check your nails too. Do you see small pits or curves in your nails? These could be signs of psoriasis, anemia, or even lupus. But don’t jump to conclusions, only a podiatrist or other physician can definitively diagnose these conditions.
Do you have bald toes? Are your feet cold all of the time? These could be indications of poor circulation. Most people know when they have a serious vascular disease (PAD, arteriosclerosis, etc), but if you once had hairy toes and now they are smooth, this could indicate that your circulation is declining. Cold feet can also be another indicator of a pesky thyroid.
Did you wake up with a bright red, hot, and painful big toe? That would be gout, an inflammatory disease that’s a cousin to arthritis. How about sudden clubbing – swelling of the digits creating a ‘rounded’ look to feet and toes? This could indicate a serious lung infection, intestinal disease (like Crohns), or even lung cancer. Watch the tips of your toes specifically and if you see swelling that just won’t go away, see your podiatrist. Just like vascular diseases though, most people know they have a greater health issue before they see these symptoms.
- Persistent sores or numbness
Both of these are strong indicators of diabetes. If you see sores or injuries on your feet (particularly the bottom) that just wont seem to heal or you suddenly start experiencing pins and needles sensations in your feet, have your blood sugar checked. Don’t put this one off either, when left untreated (meaning managing your diabetes) a foot ulcer can worsen over time creating infection. In fact, 6% of people with chronic ulcers end up hospitalized from complications.
I say it over and over again, but pain is never normal! If you experience pain of any sort in your feet, go get it checked. Having pain around your joints? Could be an early indication of arthritis. Constantly cramping up? Could be dehydration or a mineral insufficiency of potassium, calcium, magnesium, or sodium. If your feet hurt all the time and become very painful to walk on you could be losing bone density, an early indication of osteoporosis.
There are all sorts of incredible things your feet can tell you (even if they aren’t really predicting the future) so pay attention to them. Examine your skin and nails for abnormalities, watch for sores or discolorations, and remember that pain in your feet is not normal! Start by seeing your podiatrist to rule out a directly related foot injury or disease then see your primary care physician to continue routine health monitoring. Your feet can tell you a lot if you just stop and listen.
Sports injuries aren’t really news anymore considering professional athletes are one of only five occupations that report over 1,000 injuries for every 10,000 workers. But even though the public sees sports injuries as common, that doesn’t lessen the severity or life impact they can have on the athletes themselves. Right now, over 600 tennis players are gathered at Wimbledon hoping to take home the championship title, but for some of these athletes, injuries will hold them back.
Tennis players are at risk for any number of serious foot and ankle injuries so let’s look at some common ones:
Subungal hematomas: This refers to a collection of blood under the toenail causing a black coloring to appear under the nail. While these are not serious injuries, they can be quite painful. Usually a subungal hematoma will solve itself when the toenail grows out over several months, but occasionally it is necessary to drain the blood from under the nail or remove the toenail completely. This type of injury is most often caused by shoes that are too tight and don’t allow for proper movement of the toes.
Muscle cramps: Everyone reading this has had a cramped muscle at some point in the past. Proper stretching before activity as well as maintaining proper hydration and nutrition is the best way to prevent cramps. If you do get a leg or foot cramp, make sure you immediately begin stretching the area to help relieve the tight muscle. It may be necessary to remove shoes and socks to get to the painful area to provide a gentle massage with your hands and thumbs. Once the pain begins to lessen, put some weight on the injured foot or leg and make sure you walk around and continue to use and stretch the area. This will help prevent the cramp from immediately returning.
Ankle sprains: We’ve talked a lot about ankle sprains in the past so I won’t repeat myself too much, but the biggest thing about spraining your ankle is to rest it afterwards. Use the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). There are varying degrees of ankle sprains so you may want to visit your podiatrist if the pain persists for more than a day or two, during which time you should NOT overuse the affected ankle. If you try to walk off a sprain the way you walk off a cramp, you could end up injuring yourself further and be out for a whole season rather than just a couple games. For more information on ankle sprains click here.
Achilles tendonitis: Tendonitis is an umbrella term used to describe inflammation of a tendon over a muscle or bone. Our tendons are what allow our bodies to stretch in the ways they do. When we overuse or overload these tendons, they tend to revolt against us in painful ways. With an Achilles tendon, this can be a major issue because it is one of the major tendons that enable everyday walking and running. Yet again, the best thing to do is to immediately start the RICE method. Treatment for Achilles tendonitis can usually be done at home, but only after consulting with your podiatrist first. If left untreated, tendonitis can lead to a full tendon rupture, which is definitely not going to get you back in the game anytime soon. To learn more about your Achilles tendon click here.
Heel bruises: These are exactly what they sound like, a big, ugly, painful bruise on the back or bottom of your heel. Generally the bruise will appear over time and many athletes ignore them as a small problem that will go away easily. If you rest the affected foot (meaning no sports or any kind) the bruising may go away on its own. Better foot cushioning or padding for shoes can help prevent more occurrences of this. However, if a heel bruise is ignored, it can eventually alter the interior structure of the foot by flattening the fat pad under your heel causing more pain and a longer recovery time.
This is just a small sample of the many injuries that can affect tennis players and other athletes, but they are also the most common ones and luckily the most easily treated. The moral of the story is to listen to your feet, use proper pre and post care of your feet and legs, and if you do become injured, wait to go back into the game until you are completely healed. If you don’t you may never make it to Wimbledon.
Summer is in full swing and the Fourth of July brought out the festivities in everyone. Whether you spent the day hiking, fishing, boating, partying, or just hanging out on the couch, you should make sure to protect yourself from insect-carried diseases. Ok, so maybe the people on the couch don’t have to worry…
Everyone knows about mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry – West Nile virus, yellow fever, zika, and even malaria – and we all know to use bug spray and wear long loose clothing, but there’s one more critter you have to keep an eye out for: the tick. Ticks, although commonly labeled as insects, are actually a type of mite closer in form to a spider and they like to suck blood just like mosquitoes and thus can transmit diseases to humans and animals. The black legged tick and the deer tick can both carry Lyme disease.
A very specific type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease. Ticks do not fly or jump so they “hunt” by latching on to clothing and skin as you brush by. This is why you should always wear high socks, long pants, and long sleeves when walking in any wooded areas. If you’re reading this from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, or Wisconsin then congratulations – you win the prize of having about 95% of all Lyme disease cases reported from your states. That doesn’t mean we’re in the clear my fellow Ohioans. Reforestation efforts over the past several decades have succeeded in increasing deer populations, which is the favorite taxi cab of black legged and deer ticks. Cases have been steadily on the rise in recent years.
Unfortunately it’s hard to say exactly how many cases of Lyme disease occur each year. Approximately 30,000 cases are reported to and confirmed by the CDC, but since only a fraction of data actually makes it back to the CDC, medical experts suggest the annual number of cases may be closer to 300,000. This makes it the most prevalent vectorborne (animal carried) disease in the United States.
Symptoms of Lyme disease occur in 70-80% of patients within 3 to 30 days after the initial bite and infection. The most common symptom is a rash, warm to the touch though not itchy, spreading from the bite outward and sometimes becoming a “bull’s eye” shape as it expands. This can happen on any part of the body since a tick bite may be anywhere. Other symptoms may show a more gradual onset, but can also be much more severe, including migraines, neck pain, arthritis with joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, shortness of breath, and even short-term memory loss.
Patients treated in the early stages of the disease will generally recover fully with a 2 to 4 week run of antibiotics. Patients with more progressed symptoms will also most likely benefit from antibiotics, but may have suffered long term damage before the disease can be eradicated. It is a common misconception that Lyme disease “lasts forever” and that one you have it, it never really goes away. This is false, but symptoms may persist for weeks or even months after the bacteria are all gone.
If you think you have a symptom of Lyme disease, consult a physician. A simple blood test is used to diagnose Lyme disease, but don’t be surprised if it comes back negative at first, your body can take up to two weeks to start producing antibodies to the bacteria. Your doctor will most likely ask you questions about your recent outdoor activities and do a visual examination of the rash and site of infection. Many times, these are sufficient for a positive diagnosis and treatment.
When you go outside this summer, make sure you are always wearing the proper clothing for your activity and don’t forget to use insect repellant!