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September Articles 2014

Treating Heel Pain with Shockwave Therapy

Heel pain shockwave therapy is a treatment option that helps to treat plantar fascia, which is a type of heel and foot inflammation that causes pain to the heel area. This type of injury is often caused by overworking and overusing the feet, and normally happens to people that exercise often such as runners, athletes, obese and overweight individuals, and individuals whose profession requires them to stand for long periods of time.

Since heel pain can be caused by a number of problems including poorly fitting shoes, exercise routines, work hazards, and many more, most plantar fascia treatments include very conservative techniques. Simple things like new shoes, taking ibuprofen, doing heel and foot exercises, and resting your feet can treat the problem. However, for the worst cases, using shockwave therapy is often the best treatment option.

For patients that have tried conventional treatment options, and failed at them, and who have been having heel pains for over six months, Shockwave treatment is often the next option. The concept behind this treatment is simple; shockwaves are generated from a device that delivers shockwaves to the outside of the patients body, and the shockwaves will cause the bodies repair mechanisms to work more efficiently and effectively, and in the end, start repairing the damage done to the heel area.

The goal of shockwave therapy is to eliminate the pain in the heel area, and this should happen because shockwaves trigger the body’s natural repair mechanisms. Basically, this therapy speeds up normal tissue healing in the body, and will also lead to a reduction in pain for the patient by working the pain transmission nerves located in the heel area.

The reason this treatment is gaining popularity is because it is less invasive than surgery, and eliminates the risk factors associated with surgery, such as anesthetic usage. Since this technique also works by helping the body to improve using natural healing techniques, the recovery time should be shorter than surgical processes.

This does not mean that there are not some discomfort issues that can arise out of this treatment for patients. Short term issues normally include skin bruising, minor pain during and after treatment, swelling of the heel, and discolored tissue. These side effects of shockwave therapy should be gone in a few days, giving the patient a fast recovery time which makes it easy to return to the routines of their daily life .

Like most types of treatments, surgeries, and medications, there are certain people that should not have shockwave therapy procedures performed on them. Potential patients with heart conditions and people with pacemakers should not be considered for this technique. People on certain types of medications, usually medications affecting blood clotting, would also be ineligible for this treatment option. And lastly, children and pregnant women should avoid this as well.

Overall, shockwave therapy could be a great option for heel pain because it is less invasive than surgery, helps to trigger the natural healing mechanisms of the body, and should be considered by people who have had long bouts of heel pain, who have tried conventional treatment options that failed, and who have the money to afford such a procedure.

Broken Foot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

A broken foot is when one of the bones located in the foot fractures, or breaks. About 10% of broken bones occur in the foot.

Bones typically break when an object crushes, bends, or stretches the bone. In the foot, the location of the broken bone is usually indicative of how the break occurred. Toes usually break when something hard and solid is kicked with great force. Broken Heels are usually a result of falling from a great height and landing on the feet. Other broken bones in the feet can occur because of a twisted or sprained ankle. Most of the time, a broken foot results from a sudden accident or injury. Sometimes small cracks can form over time in the bones of the feet from repeated stress. These cracks are called stress fractures and usually only occur in athletes that put a lot of pressure on their feet, like runners, dancers, and gymnasts.

Symptoms of a broken foot typically include pain, swelling, bruising, and redness. Occasionally the pain of a broken foot may be so severe that walking is not an option. However, this depends on the location of the broken bone within the foot. Broken toes are usually less painful than broken heels or other bones within the foot. A foot that is blue, numb, cold, misshapen, cut or deformed can occur in more serious cases of broken feet. Those who are experiencing any of these symptoms, or suspect that they have a broken foot, should seek medical attention in a center where x-rays can be performed. 

Prior to seeking the attention of a doctor, several steps can be taken at home in order to reduce pain and swelling. Stabilization and elevation of the broken foot should be the number one priority. It is important not to move the foot, so any type of homemade splint will work well. However, any splint that causes the foot to become more painful, or cut off blood circulation should be removed. Ice can also decrease swelling and alleviate some of the pain that a broken foot can cause.

In a medical center, treatment for a broken bone will differ depending on which bone in the foot is fractured and depending on what caused the break. Some broken feet will require the patient to use crutches, while others will require splits or casts. More severe cases may require surgery on the foot to repair the broken bone or bones.

Barefoot Running

A new trend in running and jogging has popped up recently, called barefoot running. Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is just what it sounds – running without shoes. Before deciding to do any running without shoes, it's best to understand how this kind of running affects the feet.

Running without shoes changes the motion of running. Most running is done by landing on the heel of the feet. Running barefoot requires a different way of running; in a barefoot stride landing is done on the front part of the feet. Because of this, the impact shifts from the heels to the front feet. Runners also shorten their strides to create a softer landing.

Running barefoot does have its advantages. When running and landing on the front feet, the impact on the feet and ankle is reduced, which may reduce the incidence of stress injuries. It strengthens muscles in the feet, and also strengthens muscles in the ankles and lower legs that aren't usually worked. Overall balance of the body is improved and there is greater sensory input from the feet to the rest of the body, making overall position and motion less stressful on the body. It has been found that in countries in which some of the population regularly wear shoes and some do not, numbers of foot and ankle injuries are much higher in those who wear shoes.

People hearing about barefoot running for the first time are skeptical about it, and there are good reasons for skepticism. Running barefoot certainly has its drawbacks, the obvious being no protection of the feet when running. This makes it likely that when runners land on sharp or rough objects,  scrapes, bruises, and cuts on feet will result. Blisters will form when beginning this kind of running especially, you may have plantar fascia problems. Landing on the front feet constantly also increases the risk of getting Achilles tendonitis.

So what can runners do to make barefoot running safe? It’s best to make a slow transition from running shoes to barefoot running. The body is used to wearing shoes so to slowly transition to bare feet, start by walking barefoot for a distance and then increase walking distance. Once the feet begin to adjust, try walking and then jogging and gradually increase the distance. If you have foot problems talk to the doctor first before attempting barefoot running. When starting out, it may also be helpful to begin by running on pavement or other consistent surfaces to avoid sharp or rough objects. Minimalist running shoes may also be an option, as they allow for many of the benefits of barefoot running while also protecting the feet from cuts and scrapes.

Choosing a Podiatrist

A doctor who specializes in treating foot disorders such as warts, bunions, calluses, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, heel pain and corns is called a podiatrist. Most people tend to ignore the feet, which should not be the case as they play just as important a role as other parts of the body.

Choosing a podiatrist should be accorded the same seriousness you would use when choosing any other doctor. Do your homework and make sure you get the kind of podiatrist you need.

Finding a podiatrist shouldn't be difficult. Ask your friends, physician, relatives, the local hospital, insurance companies, surf the Internet, look in the telephone directories and advertisements both on the radio and on newspapers.

Ask around about a podiatrist or do some research online before setting up an appointment. Nurses are good sources of information as they work closely with doctors and understand them. Other avenues you need to consider are the medical boards, as well as referral patients that have been treated by the same doctor. Also, it is a good idea to find out whether the podiatrist you are interested in is involved in and knowledgeable about the latest treatment options and procedures. This is especially important for those with serious foot problems.

So you have found the specialist you like, but are you comfortable enough with him? Your comfort should be given priority, as you will be spending a considerable amount of time with him. The only way to find this out is by booking an appointment with him and observing his attitude toward you, toward other patients, and toward his coworkers. A good podiatrist should be able to put a patient at ease as well as explain problems and procedures. They should be willing to spend as much time as necessary to help a patient understand his or her condition and the options available to them.

The next thing to be considered is cost. Fees should not be exorbitant, but cheap can also be expensive. You may think that you have found the best deal only to make a later discovery that the hospital you settled for is not well equipped and offers substandard treatment. If this is the case, the problem you are being treated for may not be resolved as smoothly as it should. Fees should be reasonable and the receptionist or office manager should be ready to help with any financial concerns you might have.

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.