Common Foot & Ankle Issues

Our feet and ankles – maybe you rarely think about them but once a problem arises, they are hard to ignore.  They transport us everywhere and the last thing you need is the health of your feet and ankles to wear down.

Don’t take your feet and ankles for granted - a daily inspection of them is best to be able to catch any problems occurring saving you from prolonged disability.

Here are several ailments affecting our feet and ankles and what to do about them:

·         Bunions

A bunion is a large bump forming where the big toe meets the foot or at the base of the big toe.  They are more common in women and can be caused by a number of reasons including shoes that are too tight, years of abnormal motion (like dancers on point), poor foot mechanics, bone deformities, flat feet, and arthritis. When a bunion gets worse, they can result in stiffness, arthritis, other toe deformities, or difficulty wearing footwear.

Treatment – Wear shoes with a roomy toe box where you can wiggle your toes, wear padding, over-the-counter supports, orthotics or taping by a physical therapist.  If a bunion becomes progressively worse, they may need surgery.

·         Achilles tendinitis

This common condition causes pain along the back of the leg near the heel.  The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body connecting your calf muscle to your heel bone and is used when walking, running, and jumping.

The Achilles tendon can withstand a lot of stress from running and jumping but it is prone to tendinitis, a condition of inflammation associated with overuse, degeneration, and lack of flexibility.  If it is not treated it can last for months or years so the sooner it is addressed the better. 

Treatment – Rest, ice, elevate, physical therapy, shoe modifications, topical creams, cortisone injections or shock wave treatment can be helpful for avoiding surgery.

·         Fallen arches or flat feet

You know if you have fallen arches when you stand and the entire sole of your foot touches the ground completely.  Having fallen arches or flat feet can cause problems throughout your skeletal structure and can even bring your joints out of alignment.  They are prone to progress and if ignored, they can lead to ruptured tendons, torn ligaments, arthritis, and difficulty wearing shoes or walking.

Treatment – The best way to treat this is by wearing good orthotics for the arch, switching from high-impact activities such as running to low-impact activities like swimming or yoga.  Good supportive shoes help and in extreme cases, reconstructive surgery.

·         Ankle sprains

If an ankle is sprained, it means one or more ligaments have been torn.  The more ligaments torn, the more unstable your ankle becomes. Ankle sprains should be dealt with right away to reduce the chance of spraining it again and risking wearing out the ankle joint resulting in long-term joint pain and weakness and developing arthritis.

Treatment – Use the RICE method for initial treatment – Rest; use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours or until swelling goes down applying an ice pack for 10 to 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours; compression to help control swelling as well as immobilizing it; and elevating the leg frequently.   Seek a doctors help if the pain is severe, the foot or leg bends at an abnormal angle, the foot feels cool or looks pale, there is numbness or tingling or you are unable to move your ankle.

·         Plantar fasciitis

This is an inflammation of the band of tissue helping to support the arch. It if is not addressed early on, it can cause discomfort for months.

Treatment – Stretching exercises, nighttime splinting, anti-inflammatory medicine or steroid injections.

·         Ingrown toenails

This can develop when one side of the toenail (usually the big toe) digs into the skin causing pain and redness at the corner of the toe.  If ignored, it can lead to serious infections requiring surgery.

Treatment – Lukewarm water foot soaks for 15-20 minutes using Epsom salts can be helpful; elevating the foot and leg and taking an anti-inflammatory medication or removal of the offending portion of the nail can help.