Proper foot health and stretching can help in avoiding injuries

By M. John Von Thron, MD

How well you take care of your feet can not only impact how you walk but also can affect your knees, hips and even lower back. With April designated as Foot Health Awareness Month, there are steps you can take to prevent common injuries.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of heel pain, is most noticeable when you first get out of bed and take your first few steps of the day or when you get up after sitting on the couch for a couple of hours watching television. Sometimes after a few steps, the pain will subside. But then as the day goes on, the pain tends to become worse. This condition, which often occurs in people ages 30 to 60, is caused by micro tears or inflammation in the band of tissues on the bottom of your foot that are attached to your heel bone. Overuse or the impact of running or walking can be the culprit. Being overweight can put you more at risk as well as walking around barefoot on hard surfaces such as tile and hardwood floors. Foot wear with appropriate cushion can help prevent this condition from occurring.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis involves stretching exercises and anti-inflammatory medications. Icing your foot and using night splints at night is also helpful. Wearing specially designed jell cushions during the day is ideal. Surgical intervention is rarely necessary.

Achilles Injuries

Achilles tendonitis and Achilles tendon ruptures are two other common foot conditions.
The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscle to your heel and allows you to push down on the gas pedal or raise up onto your toes. People can experience a traumatic rupture above the heel bone when the tendon tears in half and you hear a large pop or experience a sensation that feels like someone has hit you on the back of your leg with a bat.  Swelling and pain occurs immediately and you will not be able to walk using that leg. The middle-aged population, especially men, and those who are active in sporting activities that require a sudden burst of speed or jumping are at high risk.

Surgery used to be the primary treatment for Achilles ruptures, but now there are non-surgical options, including wearing a boot immobilizer for about six weeks, followed by six to eight weeks of rehabilitation before returning to normal activities. Occasionally, surgery may still be required depending on the rupture, but the outcomes with surgery and the non-surgical treatment are generally the same.
Achilles tendonitis is another painful condition that occurs behind your ankle and makes it difficult to run or walk.  Treatment includes stretching, ice and anti-inflammatory medication and wearing a heel lift in your shoe to take the stress off your Achilles tendon.

Keeping your feet healthy is essential to an overall healthy life and stretching goes a long way in helping to avoid injuries. So take the time, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, to stretch your leg muscles. You’ll be glad you did.

John Von Thron, MD, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, who specializes in general orthopedics, joint replacement, minimally invasive surgery, sports medicine, hand and arm surgery. His office is at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, 1577 Roberts Drive, Medical Office Building C, Suite 225, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250. For more information, call 904.875.5057.


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