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March 2020

Monday, 30 March 2020 00:00

Stretching Your Feet

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 23 March 2020 00:00

What is Morton's Neuroma?

Morton’s neuroma, (also referred to as Morton’s metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuralgia, plantar neuroma or intermetatarsal neuroma) is a condition that is caused when the tissue around one of the nerves between your toes begins to thicken. This thickening can result in pain in the ball of the foot. Fortunately, the condition itself is not cancerous.

Morton’s neuroma affects women more often than men with a ratio of 4:1. It tends to target women between the age of 50 and 60, but it can occur in people of all ages. There are some risk factors that may put you at a slightly higher risk of developing the condition. People who often wear narrow or high-heeled shoes are often found to be linked to Morton’s neuroma. Additionally, activities such as running or jogging can put an enormous amount of pressure on the ligament and cause the nerve to thicken.

There usually aren’t any outward symptoms of this condition. A person who has Morton’s neuroma may feel as if they are standing on a pebble in their shoe. They may also feel a tingling or numbness in the toes as well as a burning pain in the ball of their foot that may radiate to their toes.

In order to properly diagnose you, the doctor will press on your foot to feel for a mass or tender spot. He may also do a series of tests such as x-rays, an ultrasound, or an MRI. X-rays are usually done to rule out any other causes for your foot pain such as a stress fracture. Ultrasounds are used to reveal soft tissue abnormalities that may exist, such as neuromas. Your podiatrist may want to use an MRI in order to visualize your soft tissues.

There are three main options for treatment of Morton’s neuroma: Injections, decompression surgery, and removal of the nerve. Injections of steroids into the painful area have been proven to help those with Morton’s neuroma. Decompression surgery has been shown to relieve pressure on the affected nerve by cutting nearby structures such as the ligaments in the foot. Another treatment option would be to surgically remove the growth to provide pain relief.

If you suspect that you have Morton’s neuroma you should make an appointment with your podiatrist right away. You shouldn’t ignore any foot pain that lasts longer than a few days, especially if the pain does not improve.

Thursday, 19 March 2020 00:00

Sports Related Foot And Ankle Injuries

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.

Monday, 16 March 2020 00:00

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. This considered to be one of the most frequently recorded medical illnesses throughout history. Gout occurrences in the US have risen within the past twenty years and the condition now affects 8.3 million people which is 4% of all Americans. Researchers have found that gout affects men more than women and African-American men more than white men. 

Symptoms of gout are warmth, swelling, discoloration, and tenderness in the affected joint area. The small joint on the big toe is the most common place for a gout attack to occur.

People who are obese, gain weight excessively, drink alcohol heavily, have high blood pressure, or have abnormal kidney function are more likely to develop gout. Furthermore, certain drugs and diseases are likely to increase levels of uric acid in the joints which eventually leads to gout. You are also more likely to develop gout if you eat a lot of meat and fish.

Many who experience gout attacks will experience repeated attacks over the years. Some people who have gout symptoms, may never have them again, but others may experience them several times a year. If you have gout symptoms throughout the year, you may have recurrent gout. Those who have gout should also be careful about their urate crystals collecting in their urinary tract, because this may lead to kidney stones.

Diagnosis for gout is done by checking the level of uric acid in the joints and blood. Your podiatrist may also prescribe medicine to reduce uric acid buildup in the blood, which will help prevent any gout attacks.

To treat gout, your podiatrist may also prescribe you Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) which will relieve the pain and swelling of a gout episode and it can also shorten a gout attack. Maintaining a healthy diet is also a proven method to prevent gout attacks. 

Monday, 09 March 2020 00:00

Ankle Pain

Pain experienced in the ankle can be caused by a multitude of conditions. While the most common cause is an ankle sprain, other possible problems can include arthritis, gout, ankle instability, ankle fracture, nerve compression, or tendinitis. In more serious cases, ankle pain can be a sign of improper alignment of the foot or an infection.

Ankle pain can often be accompanied by symptoms such as redness, swelling, stiffness and warm in the affected area. Pain can be described differently depending on the condition; short, stabbing pain and a dull ache are some examples. If such symptoms are persistent and do not improve after time, be sure to schedule an appointment with your local podiatrist.

Depending on the condition behind your ankle pain, different treatments may be prescribed by your podiatrist. For ankle sprains, the first step in treatment involves rest, ice, elevation, and compression. Be sure to avoid placing pressure on the ankle, use an ice pack several times a day, and use a compression bandage and elevation to reduce swelling. Other more serious conditions may require the assistance of certain drugs and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, or even cortisone injections.

Consult with your foot and ankle doctor to best determine the cause of your ankle pain and the appropriate treatment. Depending on the severity of your ankle pain and the condition behind it, recovery from ankle pain may take some time.

Monday, 09 March 2020 00:00

Flip Flops and Feet

Flip flops are often a popular choice of footwear for many people. Flip flops allow your feet to breathe and give your toes the freedom of movement. They are easy to slip on and can be worn with virtually any style of clothing. Flip flops, however, despite their many benefits, can be detrimental for your foot health.

Despite their comfortableness, frequently wearing flip flops can create problems in the lower body over time. Issues mainly stem from the fact that people walk differently in flip flops compared to other footwear, such as sneakers. This is due to a change in one’s natural gait, which therefore creates stress in different parts of the body while hindering the body’s natural posture. Problems can also arise in the arches and balls of the feet. Flip flops provide little to no support to these areas.

Aside from long-term problems, flip-fops can also create short-term issues as well, such as ankle sprains and blisters. Weak materials that are flexible and bendable are generally used to manufacture flip flops. These materials make its wearers prone to both tripping and injuring their ankles. Flip flops can create blisters as the material rubs against the foot. People are much more at risk for infection while wearing flip flops due to their openness. This also makes it easier to scrape and cut the foot since there is a lack of protection. If these cuts are left untreated and uncovered, the risk then becomes greater.

To prevent the aforementioned occurrences, purchase a pair of flip flops that offer significant protection. The soles of the flip flops should not be floppy, but sturdy and firm, and should not significantly bend or wiggle when lifted from the floor. Flip flops made of high-quality materials will not be affected by this problem. While higher quality flip flops may be more expensive, they will last longer and provide better protection compared to a cheaper pair. Brand name flip flops sold from a quality manufacturer are a dependable option.

There is no problem in wearing your favorite pair of flip flops so as long as you do not wear them daily or for extended periods of time. Flip flops should be replaced every 3-4 months to ensure that they provide your feet with the best protection.

Monday, 02 March 2020 00:00

Bunions

A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.

Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.

A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.

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