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The Foot Doctor
Whether you’re an athlete or Joe Average, whether or not you ride to work or school, whether you’re from the suburban sprawl or the urban jungle – whatever your walk of life, you will be using your feet a lot. Running to catch the next train, walking home, or even just standing around waiting in line for your turn at the grocery store cashier, your feet are your greatest supporters, day in and day out. However, all that use will wear them out, and like all things that wear out, they will eventually break. And when they break, you will definitely need to fix them. And who better to fix foot problems than a foot doctor?
Podiatrists are doctors that specialise in the injuries, diseases, and disorders of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. They are trained in the biomechanics of the foot and are therefore qualified to prescribe shoes, braces, or other orthotic devices, as well as perform surgical procedures to treat more serious conditions. Podiatrists also treat less complicated diseases of the foot, which we will cover in more detail later.
Although the podiatrist is the definitive foot doctor, there are a lot of people who are more familiar with the orthopaedic surgeon, also called an orthopaedist. Although both doctors are capable of treating conditions in the foot, ankle, and leg, there are a few key differences between the two. For one, the training coverage of orthopaedists are not limited to the foot and legs – they are concerned with disorders across the entirety of your musculoskeletal system, treating for example diseases that manifest in the legs but are in fact caused by another part of the body such as the hips or back. As their name implies, orthopaedic surgeons are, well, surgeons; as such, their treatments will typically revolve around surgery as opposed to the less invasive approach taken by podiatrists.
1. You are feeling foot pain.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, your feet get used a lot each day, even from the simple act of walking or standing. Jobs such as nurses, retail workers, salespeople, and restaurant waiters involve a lot of standing and walking – often for many hours at a time with only short breaks in between. This extended use, compounded over months or years, can result in pain in the heels, toes, arches, or ankles. A podiatrist will be able to help your feet recover faster, and they may also recommend certain shoes or shoe inserts to alleviate pain on your joints and get you back on the job in no time.
2. You are engaging in intense physical activity.
Superstar athlete or not, your feet are your greatest supporters, serving as your point of contact with the ground. Because of that, your feet are at a constant risk of injury in any sport if you’re not careful – basketball in particular is a sport with some of the highest foot and ankle injury rate as players constantly use fast movements and sudden changes of direction. Sprains, torn ligaments, and fractures are very common in basketball, and although they aren’t as common in other sports, the risk never goes away. It is important to find and know a good podiatrist to help you avoid injury and help you recover from it should you ever get injured.
3. You are suffering from certain diseases or abnormalities.
Not all of the ailments of the foot and ankle are caused by injuries from wear, tear, and overexertion. Quite a lot of people get foot problems that arise from one of a wide range of medical conditions. A few examples include:
- Diabetic neuropathy, a disease that damages nerves in the body (often starting in your feet), causing numbness, tingling, and pain;
- High arches and flat feet, abnormal growth of the foot that results in the arch of the foot being higher or lower than normal; this can cause undue strain on the joints of the toes and the heels over time.
- Bunions, bony bumps inside the foot that cause the big toe to point inward toward the second toe;
- Bone spurs, small, abnormal bone growths on one of the bones of your foot;
- Arthritis, inflammation of the joints, the many types of which have varying causes; and
- Ingrown toenails, a condition in which one of the toes (typically the big toe) grows in an abnormal manner and curves into the toe, causing redness, swelling, and pain.
Many foot conditions are often caused by the wearing of shoes that are too small or do not support the foot properly. Your podiatrist will be able to identify the problems you have and prescribe the wearing of specialised shoes or shoe inserts that are designed to properly support your feet, or perform surgery to treat some of the more serious conditions.