You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your feet if they are working as intended — carrying you to and from where you want to be. But if injury or pain ever affects your ankles or feet, it’s likely all you will be able to focus on, as most of my patients can tell you.
Taking care of your feet
Practicing as a foot and ankle surgeon, I see the impact conditions of the lower extremities have on people going about their daily lives. While many of the problems I treat are not readily preventable, there are three steps everyone can take to reduce their risk.
1. Check it out.
Everyone should regularly inspect their feet for anything out of the ordinary, such as sores or cuts. It is especially important for people with diabetes to carefully inspect their feet twice a day, as diabetic foot wounds can lead to serious complications.
2. Stretch it out.
A lot of aches and pains in the feet and ankles actually are caused by a tight calf further up the leg. Performing stretches for your calf and Achilles tendon (which runs along the back of your ankle) can help prevent both pain and the potential for injury.
3. Switch it out.
Do not wait until your shoes have no tread left to get new ones. Changing out your shoes before they are worn out is important to protect your feet, reduce foot pain, and decrease the risk of an ankle injury.
4 foot issues to seek care for
Even if you follow these three steps, some foot and ankle conditions may be unavoidable. The good news is that the field of foot and ankle treatment has progressed rapidly over the past 20 years, particularly for addressing four of the most common foot and ankle conditions.
If they aren’t causing pain or issues with shoes or otherwise impacting quality of life, bunions don’t need to be treated. But if they are causing problems, surgery may be the best option for long-term, effective relief. Today, bunion surgery is done as an outpatient procedure, meaning no hospital stay is required, and patients now are usually back walking within a matter of days rather than weeks.
2. Ankle sprains
Anyone who has lived an active lifestyle likely has had to deal with a sprained ankle at some point. In most cases, sprains can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation. Occasionally, a temporary brace or physical therapy may be beneficial. However, if a sprain or series of sprains creates ongoing ankle pain and/or instability, there are surgical options that can restore function and stability.
Like bunions, flatfeet (also called fallen arches) may not cause any pain or problems and consequently, do not require any treatment. However, if they are causing foot or ankle pain, treatment may be necessary. Something as simple as shoe insoles or a brace can often be effective but sometimes outpatient surgery is warranted.
4. Ankle arthritis
As with any other joint, ankles are susceptible to arthritis that only gets worse with more mileage. Injections and bracing can provide relief for mild to moderate cases of arthritis, but for more advanced cases, ankle fusion or ankle replacement may be the best option. Both procedures have a strong record of success.
No one looks forward to surgery, but with advances in procedural techniques and tools, people are getting better results, recovering faster and are often back on their feet quickly. As treatment options have expanded — including non-surgical options and an expanded portfolio of minimally invasive procedures — you have many more ways to find relief and put your best foot forward.
Find an orthopedic specialist today to help manage your foot or ankle pain.
About the author
Jacob Zide, MD, is a foot and ankle surgeon on the medical staff in Baylor Scott & White – Dallas, McKinney and Plano. In addition to patient care, his practice focuses on research and is home to one of the longest-running foot and ankle fellowship programs in the country, training the next generation of foot and ankle specialists. Get to know Dr. Zide today.