From overuse injuries to long-term, progressive conditions and sudden, unexpected injuries, it is important to seek treatment with an expert in diagnosing and treating foot and ankle conditions. For many foot and ankle conditions or injuries, surgery is a last resort. Physical therapy, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications, braces, shoe orthotics or even custom shoes can be used to treat most foot and ankle problems.
Common Foot and Ankle Conditions
Here are the three most common foot and ankle issues we treat in my practice.
1. Foot or Ankle Fracture
In winter, we frequently treat people of all ages for a fractured foot or ankle. A fracture is when a bone breaks. Fractures can range from mild to severe, depending on the exact location and type of break. Foot and ankle fractures are often caused by slips and falls on ice or snow-covered surfaces and during recreational sports. At home, slips and falls down stairs are common. Fractures are diagnosed with X-ray imaging. In many cases, a fracture can heal with a cast or a brace. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to keep the bone in place while it heals.
Seek treatment for a fracture if you have immediate pain, swelling in the foot, ankle or both or if you have difficulty walking or bearing weight on the injured foot.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects your calf muscle to the heel. Activities like running, jumping and walking can put stress on the Achilles tendon and cause it to swell. In extreme cases, the tendon can rupture. Achilles tendonitis is considered an overuse injury and is often caused by tight calf muscles.
Achilles tendonitis is diagnosed with a physical exam and sometimes, with an MRI scan. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy are the typical treatments for Achilles tendonitis, but surgery can be considered for persistent cases, depending on the individual.
Seek treatment for Achilles tendonitis if you feel pain in your heel or the back of your calf while walking or running. If you hear a “pop” in the back of your heel or calf, this could indicate a rupture, and you should seek immediate treatment.
3. Flatfoot Deformity
In people with flatfoot deformity, the arch of the foot collapses. This can happen over time to people who previously had normal arches, which is why the condition is also referred to as adult-acquired flatfoot deformity.
Flatfoot deformity can be the result of an injury or tear to the ligaments or tendons of the foot. Some people develop flatfeet during childhood, when the arches fail to develop. Flatfoot deformity is diagnosed with a physical exam. Treatment for flatfoot deformity can involve physical therapy, orthotics, braces and even surgery. For many people, flatfeet can be painless, and in those cases, no treatment is necessary.
Seek treatment for flatfoot deformity if foot pain in the arch area or ankle is limiting your activity.
Diabetes and Foot Care
People with diabetes are at a higher risk for complications when it comes to foot injuries because of nerve damage in the feet and poor circulation. A small cut on the toe or a fungal infection can become serious quickly.
In the most severe cases, it may lead to amputation. If you or a loved one has trouble trimming toenails, corns or calluses, schedule an appointment with our registered nurse for foot care services.
Gearin Green, MD, is a Froedtert & MCW orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. Green sees patients at Froedtert Holy Family Memorial Hospital in Manitowoc and at the Froedtert & MCW Harbor Town Campus in Manitowoc. Schedule an appointment by calling 920-320-5241.