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Family Foot & Ankle Care in Wheeling, IL 60090 and Chicago, IL 60613

January 2024

Tuesday, 30 January 2024 00:00

What Are Bunions?

Bunions are large bony bumps at the base of the big toe. Medically known as hallux valgus, a bunion is a misalignment of the metatarsophalangeal joint, or big toe joint. The misalignment will generally worsen with time if left untreated.

The exact cause of bunions is unknown, with genetics seen as a potential cause. High heels and poorly-fitted footwear, rheumatoid arthritis, and heredity all seem to be potential factors behind the exacerbation of bunions. Women have been found to be more likely to develop bunions in comparison to men.

Bunions do not always produce symptoms. The best way to tell is if the big toe is pushing up against the next toe and there is a large protrusion at the base of the big toe. You may or may not feel pain. Redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe may be present as well.

Podiatrists use a variety of methods to diagnose bunions. If there are symptoms present, podiatrists will first consider that it is a bunion. If not, a physical examination will be conducted to check function of the big toe. Finally, an X-ray may be taken to view the extent of the bunion and confirm it is a bunion.

Typically, nonsurgical methods are used to treat bunions, unless the bunion has become too misaligned. Orthotics, icing and resting the foot, roomier and better fitted shoes, taping the foot, and pain medication are usually utilized first. If the bunion doesn’t go away or causes extreme pain, surgery may be required. Surgeons will either remove part of the swollen tissue or bone to straighten the toe out.

If you have a bunion, it is recommended to see a podiatrist. The longer it is left untreated, the worse it may get. Podiatrists can properly diagnose and treat a bunion before it gets worse.

Tuesday, 23 January 2024 00:00

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Overtraining and overusing the feet are the main causes of common running injuries. A number of these common injuries are caused by overrunning. Runner’s knee is a condition that is characterized by the back of the kneecap beginning to wear away and cause pain in the knee. This frequently occurs due to either a decrease in strength in the quadriceps muscles or ill-fitting shoes that are lacking in proper support for the inside of the forefoot. Strengthening exercises focusing on the quad muscle and sports orthotics are the usual treatments for those suffering from runner’s knee. Prevention of the condition lies in a focus on hip strengthening and quad-strengthening to keep the kneecap aligned. To help learn the best exercise to heal runner’s knee, one can also undergo physical therapy.

One common injury, called iliotibial band syndrome, is often caused by overtraining. This condition occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, creating pain and discomfort in the outside knee area. Plantar fasciitis, another common running injury, also occurs as a result of inflammation and irritation. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and irritation of the bone in the foot. A large amount of pain is often experienced due to plantar fasciitis. The condition can be caused by a high arch, improper footwear, tight muscles, or flat feet. It can best be avoided by stretching and wearing appropriate footwear that supports the foot.

Another common injury for runners is stress fractures. These injuries occur due to running style, overtraining, or a lack of calcium. Stress fractures most often occur in several locations in runners, including the inner bone of the leg, the thighbone, the bone at the base of the spine and the bones of the toes. Stress fractures are best prevented by wearing proper footwear and by running on flat and hard surfaces; this will absorb some of the shock created during running.

Aside from overtraining, other causes of common running injuries include ill-fitting footwear, a lack of flexibility and strength, and irregular biomechanics. The best way to avoid running injuries is to prevent them from even occurring. Both iliotibial band syndrome and stress fractures are preventable. The first step that should be taken to prevent running injuries is to only wear footwear that fits properly and that is appropriate for whatever activity you are doing. Running shoes are the only protective gear available to runners that can safeguard them from sustaining injuries. Choosing the right pair of shoes is therefore extremely important. While running shoes are an important factor, it is also important to consider other facets of your running routine such as training schedules, flexibility, and strengthening. These elements should be considered and altered according to your running needs to best maximize your run and minimize the possibility of injury. Careful stretching before and after a run should also be considered to help prevent running injuries. Stretching muscles enables greater flexibility and a lesser chance of sustaining injury.

Running may seem like a simple to do. However, running is actually a complex movement that puts stress on the ligaments, bones, and joints of the body.  Selecting the correct running shoe is important for increasing performance and avoiding risk of injury.  Running shoes should be selected based on your foot type.  Considerations such as trail versus road shoes are important. Your foot type dictates the degree of cushioning, stability and motion control you require.  The most accurate way to learn your foot type is to visit a local shop that specializes in running shoes.  Professionals can measure your arch type, stride and gait and help you with your shoe needs.

The design of running shoes is created around the idea of pronation.  Pronation is the natural rolling movement of your ankle from the outside to inside when your foot strikes the ground.  If you run properly you strike the ground on the outside of your heel and roll in the direction of your big toe before pushing off once more.  Pronation is beneficial because it assists the lower half of your body in absorbing shock and storing energy.  Those considered neutral runners pronate correctly and do not need running shoes that help correct their form.  Neutral runners can choose from a wide variety of shoes, including barefoot or minimal types.  However, those who have arch problems or who adopt an incorrect form while running may experience too much or too little pronation. They may require running shoes that offer additional support.

Those who overpronate experience an over-abundance of ankle rolling.  Even while standing, those who severely overpronate display ankles that are angled inward.  It is not uncommon for them to have flat feet or curved legs.  The tendency to overpronate may cause many injuries.  Areas that tend to become injured are the knees, ankles, and Achilles tendon.  If you find that you have a tendency to overpronate, you should look at shoes that provide extra stability and motion-control.  Motion-control shoes are straight and firm. Shoes of this type do not curve at the tip.  The restricted flexibility along the middle of the shoe prohibits the foot from rolling too far inward as your foot strikes the ground.

A less common problem is underpronation.  Underpronation, also called supination, is when the feet are unable to roll inward during landing.  Those who underpronate have feet that lack flexibility and high arches.  This prevents any kind of shock absorption, even though it does place less rotational stress on ankles and knees.  This added force can cause fractures, ligament tears, and muscle strains because the legs are trying to compensate for the impact.  Those who underpronate need shoes with more cushioning and flexibility.  If you have a tendency to underpronate, selecting stability or motion-control shoes may cause you more problems by continuing to prevent pronation.

Tuesday, 09 January 2024 00:00

Various Causes of Ankle Pain

Ankles are joints that connect bones in the feet with bones in the lower leg. They are comprised of bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves. The ankle joint allows the foot to move side-to-side, as well as up-and-down.

Ankle pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, but is most commonly due to soft tissue injuries such as ankle sprains and strains. 

An ankle sprain occurs when one or more of the strong ligaments that support and stabilize the ankle become overly stretched or even torn if the ankle rolls, turns, or twists awkwardly. Depending on the grade of sprain (mild-moderate-severe), there will be varying degrees of pain, swelling, and restricted range of motion, along with tenderness, bruising, and ankle instability. There may even be an audible popping noise at the moment of injury.

Ankle strains can sometimes produce similar symptoms of pain, swelling, and loss of motion, however, they are due to overly stretched muscles and tendons—not ligaments. Ankle strains may also cause muscle cramps in the feet, calves and shins.

Ankle fractures are another common source of ankle pain and occur one or more of the three bones in the ankle become fractured (broken). These breaks can be stress fractures (due to repetitive stress) or traumatic fractures (due to an acute injury). Depending on where and how severe the fracture is, symptoms can include pain and swelling that can sometimes spread up to the knee, bruising or discoloration, and an inability to bear weight. A visible deformity or exposed bone may occur in severe fractures.

Various forms of arthritis may also cause ankle pain. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes the immune system to attack healthy joints, like the ankle joint, by mistake, causing stiffness and swelling in both ankles. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage covering the ends of bones wears down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This results in pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion in the ankle. Gout is a form of arthritis where excess amounts of uric acid in the bloodstream crystallize and build up on joints, causing severe pain and swelling. Reactive arthritis causes joint pain and swelling in the ankle in response to an infection in another part of the body.

Other forms of ankle pain include bursitis (an inflammation of a cushioning bursa sac between tendons and bone), scleroderma (a thickening of connective tissues), chronic ankle instability (caused by improperly healed ankle sprains), Achilles tendon injuriesflat feet, or an infection in the ankle.

Tuesday, 02 January 2024 00:00

Exercise for Your Feet

Foot and ankle pain can be a nuisance in a person’s life, especially if it happens frequently. The best way to prevent this type of pain, is to exercise often. Regular exercise of the foot includes stretching and strength exercises. Stretching exercises can help prevent injuries such as a sprained ankle, while strength exercises can prevent ailments such as plantar fasciitis.

Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and the foot and ankle’s range of motion. These exercises can certainly help with those who participate in high-energy activities such as sports. Many athletes routinely perform foot and ankle exercises to prevent injuries like sprained ankles, which are common injuries where the tendons in the ankle are over stretched. Strength exercises help develop foot muscles for better support and protection.

Most exercises are simple and can be done at home, either standing or sitting. One chair exercise is called “limber up”. In this exercise, a person would start by sitting down with their feet flat on the floor. Then lift one leg up so the feet are not touching the floor, then rotate your foot clockwise 15-20 times, and 15-20 times counterclockwise. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg. Another sitting exercise helps stretch the back of your heel and requires an exercise band. It begins by looping the band around a heavy piece of furniture, or something stable that will not be moved when the band is tugged or pulled. Then sit directly in front of it, and slide one foot into the loop, so that the band curves around the forefoot. Start by pulling the forefoot back and holding it for 5-10 seconds. Doing this 10-15 times on each foot, will stretch the back of your heel, increasing your flexibility.

Foot exercises that require standing are also just as easy and simple. Referred as the “Achilles Stretch”, this exercise stretches the Achilles tendon, making it more flexible, helping prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain. It begins by first standing and facing the wall, with the arms outstretched and the palms on the wall. Then place one foot behind another keeping the back leg straight, and the forward leg bending at the knee. Make sure both heels are flat on the floor and adjust your stance accordingly. With your hips, lean forward to feel the stretch, you can also adjust the distance from your feet to feel the stretch in various parts of the calf. Make sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the same process 3 times with each leg. An even easier foot exercise is simply walking on sand. Walking barefoot on sand both strengthens and stretches your feet.

Doing these exercises regularly can help prevent many foot and ankle problems. Other foot exercises can even relieve pain. For example, those affected with plantar fasciitis can simply sit down on a chair, and then place a tennis ball below their affected foot. By rolling the ball under the foot, and increasing or decreasing pressure, pain will be relieved. With any exercise, it is always important to do a small warmup such as walking a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing. If after doing an exercise to relieve pain such as the tennis ball exercise, or are unsure that your execution is correct, be sure to contact a podiatrist for further instruction.

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