Foot and ankle injuries are common among people who participate in sports. Several factors contribute to this. They include failing to stretch or warm up properly, not wearing the proper type of shoe and not taping or providing other types of support for the ankle or foot. The most common foot and ankle injuries suffered by people involved in sports are plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and Achilles tendon damage or ruptures. If not treated properly, they can lead to permanent disability.
Treating these injuries is relatively simple if they are identified and addressed early. Many athletes dismiss the initial aches and pains associated with injury as just soreness or tired muscles. Their first response is usually to try to work through it. This can lead to serious problems. Many minor injuries are made far more serious when athletes continue to put strain and pressure on them. That attitude can change a mild strain into a serious strain and a minor tear into a rupture. Athletes should have unusual aches and pains evaluated by a skilled medical professional.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful injury. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue running from the heel to the base of the toes. If left untreated, it can lead to a degenerative disease called plantar fasciosis. There are several effective treatments for this ailment. Doctors often prescribe rest, massages, stretching, night splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids or surgery, usually in that order. The most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is orthotics, which offers foot support. Surgery is occasionally used as a last resort, but it comes with the risk of nerve damage and infection and often does not stop the pain.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Running, jumping and walking all impact this tendon. Two common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a rupture of the tendon. Tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon often caused by an increase in the amount of stress placed on it. Non-surgical treatments include rest, ice or anti-inflammatory medication. A rupture (tear) of the Achilles tendon can be treated by placing the lower leg in a cast for several weeks or with surgery. Many physicians feel surgery is the better option because it lowers the risk of re-ruptures. Both methods require 4 to 6 months of rehabilitation.
Ankle sprains are the most common sports related foot and ankle injury. A sprain occurs when the ligament holding the ankle bones and joint stretches beyond its normal range. It can be treated non-surgically with a combination of rest, ice wrapped around the joint for 30 minutes immediately after injury, compression by a bandage and elevating the ankle above the heart for 48 hours. This combination is referred to as RICE. Severe ankle sprains in which the ligaments are torn may require reconstructive surgery followed by rehabilitation.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is a compression of the posterior tibial nerve. The posterior tibial nerve runs along the inside of the ankle into the foot. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is named for the tarsal tunnel, which is a thin space along the inside of the ankle beside the ankle bones. This space contains various nerves, arteries, and tendons, and includes the posterior tibial nerve. The tibial nerve is the peripheral nerve in the leg responsible for sensation and movement of the foot and calf muscles. In tarsal tunnel syndrome the tibial nerve is compressed, causing tingling or burning, numbness, and pain.
Common causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome involve pressure or an injury. Injuries that produce inflammation and swelling in or around the tunnel may place pressure on the posterior tibial nerve. Direct pressure on the tibial nerve for an extended period of time, sometimes caused by other body structures close by or trauma to the tibial nerve, can result in tarsal tunnel syndrome. Diseases that damage nerves, such as diabetes or arthritis, may cause tarsal tunnel syndrome. Those with flat feet are at risk for developing the condition, as the extra pressure and strain placed on the foot may compress the posterior tibial nerve.
Feeling different sensations in the foot at different times is a common symptom of tarsal tunnel syndrome. An afflicted person may experience pain, tingling, burning or other unusual sensations in the foot of the affected leg. Symptoms are primarily felt on bottom of the foot and/or the inside of the ankle. Symptoms can appear suddenly and may occur due to overuse of the foot.
To diagnose tarsal tunnel syndrome, your podiatrist may examine the foot and tap the posterior tibial nerve to see if symptoms surface. He or she may also order an MRI to determine if a mass is present.
Treating tarsal tunnel syndrome will depend on the decision of your podiatrist. Multiple options are available, however, and can include rest, ice, immobilization, oral medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), physical therapy, injection therapy, orthotics, supportive shoes, braces, and surgery.
Morton's Neuroma, also called Intermetatarsal Neuroma or Plantar Neuroma, is a condition that affects the nerves of the feet, usually the area between the third and fourth toe. Neuroma refers to a benign growth that can occur in different parts of the body. Morton's Neuroma strictly affects the feet. This condition causes the tissue around the nerves that lead to the toes becoming thick, causing pain in the ball of the foot.
This condition can be caused by injury, pressure or irritation. Normally no lump will be felt, but instead burning pain in the ball of the foot will be experienced. Numbness and tingling may also occur. With the onset of this condition, a person may feel pain when tight or narrow shoes are worn. As the condition worsens, the pain may persist for days, or even weeks.
Persistent foot pain should always be a concern. The foot should be examined by a podiatrist if pain persists longer than a few days with no relief from changing shoes. The earlier the foot is examined and treated, the less chance there will be for surgical treatment.
There are some factors that can play a role in the development of Morton's Neuroma. These include wearing ill-fitting shoes that cause pressure to the toes, such as high heels. Also, high impact exercise may contribute to the cause of this condition. Morton’s Neuroma may also develop if the foot sustains an injury. Another cause includes walking abnormally due to bunions or flat feet. This causes excessive pressure and irritates the tissue. At times, people are affected for no determinable reason.
Podiatrists can alleviate the effects of this condition using a treatment plan to help decrease the pain and heal the foot tissue. Depending upon the severity of the Morton's Neuroma, the treatment plan can vary. For cases that are mild to moderate, treatments may include applying padding to the arch to relieve pressure from the nerve and reduce compression while walking. Ice packs can also help reduce swelling. The podiatrist may also create a custom orthotic device to support the foot and reduce compression and pressure on the affected nerve. The doctor will probably advise against partaking in activities that cause constant pressure on the affected area. They may provide wider shoes to ease the pressure from the toes. If these treatments do not relieve the symptoms of this condition, the doctor may use injection therapy.
Surgical treatment may be recommended by the podiatrist if all other treatments fail to provide relief. Normally, the podiatric surgeon will decide on either a surgical procedure that involves removal of the affected nerve or will choose surgery to release the nerve. After examination, the surgeon will decide on the best approach to treat the problem.
Recovery varies according to the type of surgical procedure. The patient will also be instructed on the best shoe wear to prevent the return of this condition, along with changes to workout routines, if this was a cause. Preventative measures are important in ensuring the condition does not return.
Our feet are important in our everyday lives. The problem is that we tend to neglect them. When this becomes a habit, it can cause significant trouble. Ignoring foot problems can mean pain, limited mobility, and expensive doctor's visits. On the other hand, if feet are cared for and looked after regularly, they will perform without pain or complication.
Routine hygiene is the most basic way to care for the feet. Wash and dry them thoroughly daily. Remember to get between the toes and keep the toenails trimmed and short. If the feet feel dry or there are signs of dryness or cracking, use a moisturizer designed for the feet.
When using moisturizer on the feet, try to avoid applying between the toes. If cream or lotion sits too long, they can cause fungal and bacterial growth. When moisturizer is used between the toes, it can also cause the skin to soften too much.
Shoes are also an important aspect of foot care. When one is picking out shoes, make sure they are the correct size. Shoes need to be snug, but not too tight. On the other hand, if shoes are too loose they can cause foot problems as well. It is highly recommended that shopping for new shoes be done later in the day. The reason for this is that the feet will have settled and swelled to their full size by then. To keep your feet at their most healthy, avoid wearing high heels or flip flops too often. Instead, choose shoes that are good for your feet. Good shoes pad the soles of your feet and support the arches and ankles.
Socks should also be worn daily with closed-toe shoes. They may feel hot during the summer months, but they absorb sweat and moisture off the feet. Without socks, the build-up of sweat in a closed-toe shoe can cause fungal problems and athlete's foot.
The best thing to remember in every day foot care is that shoes do make a difference. If you spend a lot of time on your feet, make sure that your shoes show no signs of wear. Shoes should offer ample support for the arches and the overall foot. Additionally, try to make foot cleaning and maintenance a daily habit. If you keep these things in mind, your feet will stay healthy and safe.