Foot Problems

Foot & Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle emergencies happen every day. Broken bones, dislocations, sprains, contusions, infections and other serious injuries - can occur at any time.

The following are the most common:

Strains & sprains - Sprains involve injury to ligaments, whereas strains involve injury to muscles. Ankle sprains and strains usually occur when the foot turns inward, causing swelling and pain on the outside of the ankle.

Shin splints - Shin splints can result from repetitive over-extension or strain of one of the leg muscles.

Stress fracture - A stress fracture in an incomplete crack in the bone caused by overuse or strain of the foot. A foot that is not structurally sound is prone to developing stress fractures. Even a normal foot can easily develop a stress fracture from repetitive use or a sudden increased activity level. Other causes include medical conditions such as osteoporosis, medications such as steroids. Symptoms may include pain, redness, bruising and swelling.

Break, fracture, crack - Fracture, break and crack are different ways of describing a broken bone.

Foot Injury Myths

"It can't be broken, because I can move it."

False.

This widespread idea has kept many fractures from receiving proper treatment. The truth is that often you can walk with certain kinds of fractures. Some common examples: breaks of the thinner of the two leg bones; small "chip" fractures of either foot or ankle bones; and the frequently neglected fracture of a toe.

"If you break a toe, immediate care isn't necessary."

False.

A toe fracture needs prompt attention. If X-rays reveal it to be a simple, displaced fracture, care by your podiatrist usually can produce rapid relief. However, X-rays might identify a displaced or angulated break. In such cases, prompt realignment of the fracture by your podiatrist will help prevent improper or incomplete healing. Many patients develop post-fracture deformity of a toe, which in turn results in formation of a painfully deformed toe with a most painful corn. A good general rule is: Seek prompt treatment for injury to foot bones.

"If you have a foot or ankle injury, soak it in hot water immediately."

False.

Don't use heat or hot water if you suspect a fracture, sprain, or dislocation. Heat promotes blood flow, causing greater swelling. More swelling means greater pressure on the nerves, which causes more pain. An ice bag wrapped in a towel has a contracting effect on blood vessels, produces a numbing effect, and prevents swelling and pain. After seeing a podiatrist, warm compresses and soaks may be used.

"Applying an elastic bandage to a severely sprained ankle is adequate treatment."

False.

Ankle sprains often mean torn or severely overstretched ligaments, and they should receive immediate care. Imaging Studies( X-ray, bone scan, CT, MRI or the like), immobilization by casting or splinting, and physiotherapy to insure a normal recovery all may be indicated. Surgery may even be necessary.

Source: British Columbia Association of Podiatrist - http://www.foothealth.ca/ Retrieved: 2009-06-01

Prevention

  • Wear the correct shoes for any event. Good walking shoes provide more comfort and better balance.
  • Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain.
  • Different sports activities call for specific footwear to protect feet and ankles. Use the correct shoes for each sport. Don't wear any sports shoe beyond its useful life - generally after 800 kilometres of use.
  • Wear safety shoes if you're in an occupation that threatens foot safety. There are specific safety shoes for a variety of on-the-job conditions. Be certain they are fitted properly and insert a prescription orthotics for added comfort.
  • Always wear hard-top shoes when operating a lawn mower or other grass-cutting equipment.
  • Don't walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks.
  • Watch out for slippery floors at home and at work. Clean up obviously dangerous spills immediately.
  • If you get up during the night, turn on a light. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while attempting to find your way in the dark.

What can you do?

  • Early attention is vitally important. Whenever you sustain a foot or ankle injury, you should seek immediate treatment from a podiatrist. If an injury or accident does occur, the steps you can take to help yourself until you can reach your podiatrist are easy to remember if you can recall the word "RICE," which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

    Rest. Cut back on your activity, and get off your feet if you can.

    Ice. Gently place a plastic bag of ice, wrapped in a towel, on the injured area in a 10-minute "on," 20-minute "off" cycle.

    Compression. Lightly wrap an Ace bandage around the area, taking care not to pull it too tight.

    Elevation. Sit in a position that you can elevate the foot higher than the heart, to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Switch to a soft shoe or slipper, preferably one that your podiatrist can cut up in the office if it needs to be altered to accommodate a bulky dressing.
  • For bleeding cuts, cleanse well, apply pressure with gauze or a towel, and cover with a clean dressing. It's best not to use any medication on the cut before you see the doctor.
  • Leave blisters unopened if they are not painful or swollen.
  • Foreign materials in the skin, such as slivers, splinters, and sand, can be removed carefully with a sterile instrument. A deep foreign object, such as broken glass or a needle, must be removed professionally.
  • Treatment for an abrasion is similar to that of a burn, since raw skin is exposed to the air and can easily become infected. Cleansing is important to remove all foreign particles. Sterile bandages should be applied, along with an antibiotic cream or ointment.

What can a Podiatrist do?

  • Perform a physical examination.
  • Request X-ray, bone scan, CT, MRI or other imaging studies and future exams as needed through G.P.
  • Immobilize or cast the foot/leg.
  • Prescribe medications when indicated.
  • Realign bones when indicated.
  • Perform surgery if necessary.
  • Recommend physiotherapy to aid recovery.
  • Prescribe custom orthotics for long-term control and prevention.