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Blog - Foot Doctor, Podiatrist, Allentown PA 18104, Easton PA 18042, Northampton PA 18067, Lansford PA 18232

It all comes down to one weak muscle, tendon or ligament. One second you're a young LeBron. The next, crumpled on the court, writhing in pain, out for the season.

[caption id="attachment_4812" align="alignleft" width="400"]UCSB BASKETBALL UC Santa Barbara player Zalmico Harmon. Note how his right foot is flat on the court and his leg is bent outwards as he's pivoting. Your ankles and feet had better be in excellent condition to do that every day.[/caption]

Basketball demands a lot of your ankles and feet - they're subjected to sudden, explosive movements, quick turns, and a relentless pounding on a hard surface. If your lower extremities aren't in perfect condition, a lot can go wrong very quickly. The best way to avoid a missed game or worse, a lost season, is to keep your feet and ankles (and the rest of you) in peak condition. These exercises will work muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your toes, feet, and ankles which are often neglected, at the athlete's risk.

But before we get into that, we'd like to mention that a basketball player should use braces and tape as little as possible during training. They're very useful when recovering from an injury, but for training purposes, they'll work against you. If the muscles in your feet and ankles are immobilized and artificially supported by tape or other means, they don't get worked. And a muscle that doesn't get worked is a weak muscle.

Occasionally you should train in bare feet. We know this isn't a practical suggestion in a public space, but when you're working out solo at home, ditch the basketball shoes whenever possible. The foot is the base of the ankle - build it naturally, without restraint, for better balance, mobility, and strength.

1. Loosen your plantar fascia and foot muscles

While sitting, roll a tennis ball around with the bottom of your foot, applying light pressure. Work it under the arch, the toes, and your heel for 5 minutes on each foot.

2. Develop your Dorsiflexion and Plantar Flexion

When your feet flex upward toward your body, it's dorsiflexion, as when you land on the court after a jump. When the foot flexes down or away, it's plantar flexion, as when you make a jump, sprint, or cut. To condition your muscles to endure this full range of motion, perform a unilateral stretch:

  • Stand on one leg, bend forward, and place your hands on a wall for balance.
  • Stretch your calf muscle and achilles tendon by pushing down on your knee and keeping your foot flat.
  • Raise yourself on your toes to stretch your calf.

3. Develop Ankle Strength

  • Wrap a band around the ball of your foot. Pull back, creating tension on the band, but just enough so you can still move your foot. Push your foot against the band and hold for one second. This strengthens the muscles used for plantar flexion.
  • Wrap the band around the ball of your foot and pull to create tension. Then push on the foot with the other foot. Pull your toes back toward you, hold for one second, and release. This strengthens the muscles used for dorsiflexion.
  • Start in the same position as above. But this time, keep your foot straight and rotate it outward. Hold for one second. This increases the strength of the muscles that control eversion and inversion, the movements that tilt the sole of the foot towards (inversion) or away from (eversion) the midline of your body.

Take the time to do the proper conditioning, and chances are you'll stay safe on the basketball court. If you experience any pain at all, take a break and get the advice of your trainer before continuing. Then follow up with a podiatrist who is expert in sports medicine for a full evaluation.

 

Monday, 22 December 2014 12:46

Why Our Toenails Thicken As We Age

Many of our podiatry patients remark on how thick their toenails become as they enter (and pass) middle age. Their toenails become notably tougher to trim, which makes the possibility of cuts to the skin around the nails a real possibility. Thickened toenails also splinter easily.

[caption id="attachment_4884" align="alignleft" width="300"]why toenails thicken Toenails thicken due to aging, but other factors may also be at play.[/caption]

Unfortunately, thickening toenails are a by-product of aging, in most cases. As we age, our toenails - and fingernails - slow their growth rate, and the nails thicken because the nail cells, called onychocytes, sort of pile up. Fingernails appear to thicken less, probably because we tend to them more often with filing and buffing, which thins them.

But in addition to this natural thickening of the nails, other factors may be at play also. Among them are trauma, fungal infections, and impaired circulation. Feet are under constant stress from falling objects, stubbing injuries, poor foowear, closed-in footwear, and athletic activities. All of these conditions can alter the cells from which the nails grow, and if one tends to stub or injure the same toe, the nail plate can easily become thickened or disfigured.

Peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D., a vascular disease which restricts blood flow to the extremities, can also cause thickened, brittle toenails. Fungus also plays a key role, as it thrives in the moist, dark interior of a shoe. Besides causing the toenail to thicken, a fungal infection may also cause the nail to yellow, become brittle, separate from the nail bed, and possibly emit a foul odor. In this case, your podiatrist may recommend trimming and cleaning (debridement) the toenail, a prescription topical creme or prescription oral medicine.

Reasons our toenails thicken

How to safely trim thickened toenails

**If you're diabetic, have peripheral arterial disease, or have diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a podiatrist should trim your toenails. Patients with these conditions frequently have a loss of sensation in the toes, and run the risk of wounding the skin or cutting too deeply when trimming the nails.

  1. Soften your toenails by soaking them in warm water for 10 minutes, then dry thoroughly.
  2. With a nail nipper, cut straight across the top of the toenail.
  3. Use small cuts straight across the toenail to avoid splintering, which may cause an infection.
  4. Do not round the toenails at the corner - this reduces your chance of developing an ingrown toenail
  5. With an emory board or nail file, gently file the edges of the cut toenail to remove sharp corners or edges which may catch on your sock.

Besides debridement, there are few treatment options to alleviate the thickening of toenails due to the natural course of aging. If however, your toenails are thickening due to one of the other causes mentioned above, your podiatrist will discuss a course of treatment with you.

Thursday, 04 December 2014 17:52

10 At-Home Exercises to Relieve Bunion Pain

A bunion is a deformity which occurs when the head of the first metatarsal bone behind the big toe angles out from the foot, pushing the toe toward the adjacent toes (in most cases). The protruding metatarsal head irritates the soft tissue, causing soreness on the side, top and bottom of the foot. Additionally, muscles and tendons in the foot become cramped, tired, and fatigued.

[caption id="attachment_4734" align="alignleft" width="225"]Hallux Valgus bunion Yep, that's a bunion.[/caption]

In most cases, a bunion develops due to faulty biomechanics in the foot. You'll read a lot of info online that blames high heels and even ballerina shoes for bunions, and while they might contribute to the condition, the root cause is usually genetic. Any podiatric surgeon whose been at it for a decade or more will tell you that he or she has corrected bunion deformities in members of the same family - usually mothers and daughters, but a few sons thrown in for good measure. Faulty arches, flat feet, and loose ligaments, tendons, and muscles are inherited from our parents. We stuff our feet into too-tight shoes, high heels which shift our body weight to the front of the foot, and inexpensive shoes which offer no support to our arches. Combine all of these factors, and voila! A bunion!

Once a bunion starts forming there is absolutely nothing you can do to reverse it, as the metatarsal bone is already out of alignment. But you can slow the progression of the bunion and strengthen the toe and foot muscles to relieve pain and discomfort and increase flexibility. If one of your parents or older siblings have bunions and you don't, proper shoes and strengthening exercises may help delay the onset of your bunions.

Here are some exercises to relive bunion pain:

Sitting exercises for bunion pain relief

  • Stretch your big toe. Using your fingers, pull your big toe into proper alignment and hold for ten seconds. Repeat 4 times.
  • Flex, stretch, and contract your toes to keep them limber and reduce foot pain and fatigue. Point your toes straight ahead for 5 seconds and then curl your toes under for 5 seconds, as if you're trying to grab something with your toes. Repeat 10 times.
  • Resistance. Wrap a towel around your big toe. Use the towel to pull your toe gently towards you while simultaneously pushing against the towel with your toe.
  • The ball roll. Place a golf ball or tennis ball under your foot and roll it around for a few minutes. The ball gently massages your arch, which will help to relieve cramping in the muscles.
  • Pick up a towel. Spread a small towel flat on the floor in front of you. Then try and pick it up with your toes. This is fantastic for strengthening your toes and improving flexibility.
  • Play with marbles. Place 12 marbles on the floor in front of you. Pick them up with your toes and move them to a basket. This gripping exercise improves strength in a similar way to the towel exercise above.

Standing exercises for bunion pain relief

  • Walk in sand. If you can, walk barefoot on the beach. This gives your feet a gentle massage and strengthens them in the most natural fashion. Stroll the beach sans sandals whenever possible.
  • The tennis ball lift. While standing, squeeze a tennis ball between your ankles. Then raise up on the balls of your feet, keeping your ankles level. Slowly lower yourself back to the floor. This strengthens the muscles which help to align your foot and ankle.
  • A little toe exercise. While standing, curl all of your toes up off the floor. Then, touch only your little toe to the floor. Raise the little toe back up again until it's even with the other toes. This exercise strengthens the muscles that run from the little toes up the sides of your legs.
  • Yoga Toe. Stand straight up and curl all of the toes on one foot off the floor. Hold the three middle toes in the air, then lower the big toe AND the little toe to the floor simultaneously. Then lift the little toe and big toe back up together. This is incredibly difficult, but will balance the muscles in your feet, as taught in yoga.

Click here to download our free guide to reducing your bunion pain at home.

We recommend that you perform each of these exercise twice a day, morning and night, to releive your bunion pain. If your discomfort continues, make an appointment with PA Foot and Ankle Associates. One of our podiatrists will assess your condition and recommend a treatment plan for your bunions.

 

Wednesday, 03 December 2014 14:24

9 Reasons You Might Have Pain In Your Toes

Shooting pain, dull pain, aching pain in your toes. There's nothing quite like it, is there? You can change footwear or buy over the counter insoles, but those measures only go so far. Ultimately, your toe pain will still be there, and may even get worse over time. Here then are the nine most common causes of toe pain and what your podiatrist may suggest as the best way to alleviate them.

[caption id="attachment_4690" align="alignleft" width="300"]why-do-my-toes-hurt No apparent problems with these toes - they're just the way they're supposed to look.[/caption]

The 9 most common causes of toe pain

1. Arthritis is an inflammatory disease which attacks the joints in your body. It's one of the most common causes of pain in the toes, as our appendages frequently show the early signs of this disease. Arthritis can also occur in previously fractured areas of bone and sprained joints injured years earlier.

Treatment: Rest when necessary, use over the counter pain medicine like advil or aleve to manage the pain and inflammation. Custom orthotics can be helpful in relieving the pressure on toes. If pain is intolerable, visit your podiatrist.

**A stiff big toe which is also painful at the joint may be a degenerative form of arthritis called Hallux rigidus. Read more about Hallux rigidus.

2. Gout, a form of arthritis (also called gouty arthritis), is caused by uric acid buildup in the joints. Gout causes severe pain and swelling in the joints, most commonly in the big toe.

Treatment for gout includes prescription or over the counter medications to manage the pain, and ice to reduce swelling. Gout is also treated with dietary changes to reduce uric acid output.

3. A bunion is a protuberance in the joint below the big toe. Anyone can develop a bunion, which is caused by defects in the biomechanical structure of the foot. While poor choices in footwear do not directly cause bunions, they certainly aggravate the condition. Hammer toes and overlapping toes frequently appear with bunions.

Treatment for bunions includes changes in footwear and/or custom orthotics to take pressure off of the bunion, over the counter pain medicine to manage the pain and inflammation, and surgery when necessary.

4. Hammer toes occur when the middle joint of the second, third or fourth toe becomes bent, giving the toe a hammer-like appearance. Hammer toes are caused by an imbalance in the muscles and tendons, which pull incorrectly in the foot, ultimately bending the toe.

Treatment of hammer toes includes changes in footwear to keep the hammer toe from rubbing on the inside of the shoe, and stretching exercises to strengthen the muscles and tendons. Your podiatrist may also recommend custom orthotics or surgery when necessary.

5. Overlapping toes, underlapping toes and crossover toes are deformities in which one toe crosses over or under the adjacent toe. Overlapping and crossover toes are each caused by abnormalities in the biomechanics of the foot, but for different reasons.

Treatment of overlapping toes, underlapping toes, and crossover toes includes over the counter pain relievers, stretching exercises, and splints to hold the affected toes in place. Only surgery can correct these conditions permanently, however.

6. Ingrown toenails occur when the skin on the side (or sides) of a toenail grow over the nail. Ingrown toenails can be incredibly painful and become infected if not treated.

Treatment for ingrown toenails includes soaking the foot in warm water four times each day, and treatment by a podiatrist to remove the skin and/or treat the infection.

7. Turf toe, most comonly occuring in athletes, is an overuse injury that occurs at the base of the big toe. It is usually the result of a hyperextension of the big toe, but may also be a form of sesamoiditis or sesamoid fracture (the sesamoids are two tiny bones in the ball of your foot).

Treatment of turf toe should always be handled by a podiatrist familiar with sports injuries.

8. Fractures can occur in any bone of the toe. A minor fracture needs only rest, ice, and if necessary, over the counter pain medicine to heal. But serious toe fractures must be immobilized and if extensive, may require surgery. Toe fractures should always be treated by a podiatrist.

9. A toe sprain occurs when the toe is jammed or stubbed, and the tendon or soft tissue is injured. Even though this injury can look quite nasty, the pain and swelling should subside in a few days, if there is nor fracture.

Any pain in your toes is not normal. Please make an appointment with the PA Foot and Ankle Associates office if you're experiencing any of these symptoms.

Tuesday, 09 December 2014 17:01

Tips For Winter Foot Care

You may have looked at the title of this post and said, "put on thick socks!"  And you'd be right - that's one tip to protect your feet from the cold this winter. But depending on your health, your lifestyle, and the condition of your feet, you might want to consider a few other tips for winter foot care as well.

[caption id="attachment_4769" align="alignleft" width="600"]winter foot care A good pair of insulated boots and thermal socks are your feet's best defense against winter weather.[/caption]

Cold weather tips for diabetics

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you're at greater risk of foot injury during the winter months than you are at any other time of year. A side effect of diabetes called Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy causes a loss of sensation in your feet, the result of persistently high blood sugar which damages blood vessels and nerves. DPN doesn't typically appear overnight - one experiences a slow loss of sensation over a period of years as the damage occurs. This makes a diabetic patient especially vulnerable to frostbite or frostnip, potentially damaging skin and other cells.

Diabetics - and everyone - should use common sense if they're going to be outdoors for a prolonged period. Keep moving to stimulate circulation, take breaks to warm up whenever possible, wear an excellent pair of waterproof boots, and wear 2 pair of thermal socks. Take an extra pair of socks with you in case your feet get wet. If your feet are icy cold to the touch, but you don't feel the appropriate sensation, you may have already developed DPN. Please make an appointment with your podiatrist immediately for an examination and treatment plan.

Cold weather tips for runners, hikers, skiiers, snowboarders, and all athletes

Just because you're moving, it doesn't mean you're invulnerable to freezing weather. In fact, splashing through wet streets, icy slopes, and getting your boots, socks, or sneakers wet, not only opens the door to a wicked wipeout, but also to frostbite or frostnip. Anyone who's spent significant time outdoors hiking, camping, sledding, or skiing is usually acutely aware of this from personal experience. But did you know that once you get frostbite or frostnip, you risk a more severe injury if it happens a second time?

[su_column][su_note note_color="#fff2f6" text_color="#ffffff" radius="3"]Learn to recognize the signs of frostbite (Mayo Clinic)[/su_note][/su_column]

Athletes should avoid training on wet surfaces, or at least splashing through puddles or snow. Hikers, campers, hunters, skiiers and snowboarders should have quality boots and appropriate socks to keep their feet warm and dry. If you notice a loss of sensation in your feet to any degree, get indoors immediately (or somewhere warm), take off your shoes and socks, dry your feet if wet, and allow your feet to slowly warm. If pain accompanies the warming, you may have frostnip. See a podiatrist for an evaluation.

Winter foot care for everyone

  • Use common sense and keep your feet warm and dry.
  • Wear comfortable, insulated boots that leave room for 2 pair of thermal socks. Your winter boots should also have a good sole to give you plenty of traction on wet surfaces.
  • Wear thermal socks. If your feet are cold, wear 2 pair. Pass on cotton - choose synthetic fabrics that wick moisture away from your skin.
  • If your feet tend to dry out in winter, moisturize them on a regular basis. But don't moisturize in between your toes - too much moisture in that area may lead to a fungal infection.
  • Stay well hydrated to avoid chafing. This helps to prevent dry, cracked skin and blisters.
  • Use talcum powder on your feet to keep them dry - good advice for any time of year.

 

arthritis2To counter any holiday weight gain, many runners will be fighting the cold to keep on exercising through the winter months. Exercising is also a great way to improve your mood and keep your energy throughout the day. Runners should keep in mind, however, the possibility of hypothermia while running. Prolonged exposure to cooler temperatures can decrease blood circulation to the hands, arms, legs, and particularly the feet. Keep in mind warning signs such as paleness, pain, or numbness of the affected area.  

Poor circulation is a serious condition and needs immediate medical attention. If you have any concerns with poor circulation in your feet contact one of our podiatrists of Podiatry. Our podiatrists will treat your foot and ankle needs.

Poor Circulation in the Feet

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is the result of a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, results from excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. It usually restricts the amount of blood which can flow through the arteries. Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs are sometimes caused by inflammation in the blood vessels, known as vasculitis.

Causes

Lack of oxygen from poor blood circulation restricts muscle growth and development. It can also cause:

-muscle pain    -numbness in legs
-cramps            -skin discoloration
-weakness        -slower nail & hair growth
-stiffness         -erectile dysfunction

Those who are over 50-years-old, have diabetes and/or smoke are at greatest risk for poor circulation. If you have poor circulation in the feet and legs it may be caused by PAD, and it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce the risk of getting a heart attack or stroke. Exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will dramatically improve conditions.

Consult a podiatrist or doctor to help determine a regime that suits you.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact our offices located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We offer the newest diagnostic tools and technology to treat your foot and ankle needs.

Read more about poor circulation in the feet.

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