Marjorie C. Ravitz, DPM, PC

Podiatric Medicine • Foot & Ankle Surgery

  • Marjorie Ravitz, DPM
  • Lisa M. LaRocca, DPM
  • Lisa Schirripa, DPM
  • Anthony Zizzamia, DPM

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Foot and Ankle Disorders

Did you know the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles, and numerous tendons? These parts all work together to allow the foot to move in a variety of ways while balancing your weight and propelling you forward or backward on even or uneven surfaces. It is no wonder that 75 percent of all Americans will experience foot problems at one point or another in their lifetimes.

What is a Podiatrist?

A Podiatrist is a medical specialist of the foot, ankle and lower leg. A podiatrist holds a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) degree.

To receive this four year degree, an individual must attend of of seven podiatric medical schools in the United States. To be accepted, the applicant must have successfully of complete a four year bachelor of science program (preferably pre-med). These schools offer the curriculum similar to those at allopathic schools where graduates earn medical degrees to become a medical doctor (M.D.).

Podiatric medicine students must pass two national board exams to graduate. After graduation, students continue their education in residency programs at leading hospitals. Depending on the type of podiatric medicine they choose to pursue, students spend from 1-4 years in a residency program. Most common are 2-year residencies that provide the podiatrist with thorough training in multiple types of procedures and surgeries of the foot, ankle and lower leg.

To become a podiatrist, students must demonstate excellence in orthopedics, radiography, sports medicine, dermatology, and surgery. They are often the first health professionals to diagnose vasular problems. Podiatrists also contribute significantly to diabetic foot care and wound healting. Individual states regulate what part of the body podiatrists can work on. ALl allow podiatrist to work on the foot. Most allow them to work on the ankle and mid-calf. Some states allow podiatrist to work on the entire leg.

Most Common Disorders

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body. It is located at the back of the ankle joint and can be felt as a large, cord-like structure attaching to the back of the foot. Since tendons serve to attach muscles to bone, the Achilles tendon also attaches the large calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus, to the back of the heel bone, the calcaneus.

The muscle mass and strength of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles are greater than all of the other muscles of the lower leg combined. Therefore, the pull of these muscles on the Achilles tendon is very large since these muscles help balance the body while standing, push the body forward during walking, spring the body forward during running, and spring the body upward during jumping. Because of the large amount of stress which the Achilles tendon is subjected to during running and jumping activities, the Achilles tendon is prone to injury.

The most common form of injury to the Achilles tendon is called Achilles tendonitis, which is an inflammatory condition causing pain in the Achilles tendon. Achilles tendonitis generally occurs in people who are active in sports activities. Types of sports that commonly are associated with Achilles tendonitis are basketball, tennis, running, football, soccer, volleyball and other running and jumping sports.

Achilles tendonitis tends to occur more frequently in older athletes than in younger athletes. As a person ages into their thirties and especially into their forties and fifties, the ligaments and tendons of the body tend to lose some of their stretchiness and are not as strong as before. This predisposes older individuals who are active in running and jumping activities, to tendon injuries such as Achilles tendinitis. However, Achilles tendonitis can also occur in teenagers who are very active in running and jumping sports.

Diagnosis

Achilles tendonitis is diagnosed by a history and physical examination of the patient who describes pain at the back of the ankle with walking and/or running activities. The pain generally will be associated with an increase in running or jumping intensity or frequency. It is also often associated with a change from running in a thick heeled shoe to a thin heeled shoe, such as going from training shoes to racing flats and/or racing spikes in cross-country and/or track. The pain from Achilles tendonitis is often so severe that running is impossible and even walking is uncomfortable.

During the physical examination, the podiatrist will feel and push lightly around the Achilles tendon to see if it is tender or has any irregularities in its surface. Achilles tendonitis may cause the tendon to be thickened in areas, may cause swelling of the area around the tendon, and can even feel like the tendon has a painful bump on it. In addition, the person with Achilles tendonitis will limp while barefoot, but walk more normally with heeled shoes on. X-rays are not helpful in diagnosing Achilles tendonitis but may be taken to rule-out other pathology. MRI scans are only indicated if a partial or complete rupture of the Achilles tendon is suspected by the podiatrist.

Treatment

Achilles tendonitis generally responds very well to conservative treatment as long as it is diagnosed and treated early. Surgery is rarely indicated unless the Achilles tendonitis is particularly severe and chronic, or if the tendon has ruptured completely.

Initially, the podiatrist may treat the Achilles tendonitis by putting heel lifts into the patient’s shoes. In addition, the patient may be asked to avoid barefoot walking or walking in low-heeled shoes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) may also be prescribed to calm the inflammatory process in the tendon. Icing may be suggested to help decrease the inflammation and pain in the tendon. Stretching exercises for the calf muscles may also be given to the patient to help loosen the calf muscle and Achilles tendon so that the tendon is not under as much stress during normal daily walking activities. The stretching should not be done however if it causes pain in the Achilles tendon.

Initially, the patient with Achilles tendonitis will be asked to modify their activities to decrease their running and jumping activities and do alternative physical activities, such as swimming, which don’t put as much stress on the Achilles tendon. As the tendon starts to feel better, the podiatrist will allow a gradual return to normal running and jumping activities. If normal return to activities is not possible within a few weeks, then many times the podiatrist may additionally prescribe physical therapy and/or functional foot orthotics to help the tendon heal more rapidly. The foot orthotics generally are used during both the sports activities and walking activities to allow for more normal foot and Achilles tendon function. If the physician is concerned about a partial tear of the tendon the patient may be placed in a below the knee cast. It can take several weeks or even months for the tendon to heal depending upon the severity of the injury to the tendon. It is not uncommon for a patient to return to activities too quickly and re-injure the tendon. Careful monitoring of a return to full activity is important and the patient must have patience during this period of time.

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Adult Flatfoot

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction is one of several terms to describe a painful, progressive flatfoot deformity in adults. Other terms include posterior tibial tendon insufficiency and adult acquired flatfoot.

The term adult acquired flatfoot is more appropriate because it allows a broader recognition of causative factors, not only limited to the posterior tibial tendon, an event where the posterior tibial tendon looses strength and function.

The adult acquired flatfoot is a progressive, symptomatic (painful) deformity resulting from gradual stretch (attenuation) of the tibialis posterior tendon as well as the ligaments that support the arch of the foot.

Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot.

The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

The following scheme of events is thought to cause the adult acquired flatfoot:

A person with flat feet has greater load placed on the posterior tibial tendon which is the main tendon unit supporting up the arch of the foot. Throughout life, aging leads to decreased strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The blood supply diminishes to tendons with aging as arteries narrow. Heavier, obese patients have more weight on the arch and have greater narrowing of arteries due to atherosclerosis. In some people, the posterior tibial tendon finally gives out or tears. This is not a sudden event in most cases. Rather, it is a slow, gradual stretching followed by inflammation and degeneration of the tendon. Once the posterior tibial tendon stretches, the ligaments of the arch stretch and tear. The bones of the arch then move out of position with body weight pressing down from above. The foot rotates inward at the ankle in a movement called pronation. The arch appears collapsed, and the heel bone is tilted to the inside. The deformity can progress until the foot literally dislocates outward from under the ankle joint.

There are three stages of the adult acquired flatfoot:

Stage I: Inflammation and swelling of the posterior tibial tendon around the inside of the ankle.
Stage II: Visible deformity comparing one foot to the other, as the symptomatic foot becomes flatter and more deformed. The deformity is movable and correctable in this stage.
Stage III: The foot progresses to a rigid, non-movable flat foot deformity that is painful, primarily on the outside of the ankle

Diagnosis:

The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable.

The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise.

A patient is asked to step with full body weight on the symptomatic foot, keeping the unaffected foot off the ground. The patient is then instructed to “raise up on the tip toes” of the affected foot. If the posterior tibial tendon has been attenuated or ruptured, the patient will be unable to lift the heel off the floor and rise onto the toes. In less severe cases, the patient will be able to rise on the toes, but the heel will not be noted to invert as it normally does when we rise onto the toes.

X-rays can be helpful but are not diagnostic of the adult acquired flatfoot. Both feet – the symptomatic and asymptomatic – will demonstrate a flatfoot deformity on x-ray. Careful observation may show a greater severity of deformity on the affected side.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100{d1c084eaafb77c7b01402a11cfce087deb9e10f302f634601dd5f03cf7b207eb} accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.

Treatment:

The adult acquired flatfoot is best treated early. There is no recommended home treatment other than the general avoidance of prolonged weightbearing in non-supportive footwear until the patient can be seen in the office of the foot and ankle specialist.

In Stage I, the inflammation and tendon injury will respond to rest, protected ambulation in a cast, as well as anti-inflammatory therapy. Follow-up treatment with custom-molded foot orthoses and properly designed athletic or orthopedic footwear are critical to maintain stability of the foot and ankle after initial symptoms have been calmed.

Once the tendon has been stretched, the foot will become deformed and visibly rolled into a pronated position at the ankle. Non-surgical treatment has a significantly lower chance of success. Total immobilization in a cast or Camwalker may calm down symptoms and arrest progression of the deformity in a smaller percentage of patients. Usually, long-term use of a brace known as an ankle foot orthosis is required to stop progression of the deformity without surgery.

A new ankle foot orthosis known as the Richie Brace, has proven to show significant success in treating Stage II posterior tibial dysfunction and the adult acquired flatfoot. This is a sport-style brace connected to a custom corrected foot orthotic device that fits well into most forms of lace-up footwear, including athletic shoes. The brace is light weight and far more cosmetically appealing than the traditional ankle foot orthosis previously prescribed. Other types of braces are the Arizona brace, the California brace or the gauntlet brace. The decision on which type of brace to use is based upon the patients overall needs.

In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. These surgical patients may be candidates for a 15 minute outpatient procedure to correct the flexible flatfoot deformity which is referred to as hyperpronation. The procedure is called a Subtalar Arthroereisis. It involves the placement of an implant in the space under the ankle joint (sinus tarsi) to prevent only the abnormal motion, but still allowing normal motion. This brief procedure only requires very little recovery time, and is completely reversible, if necessary. Your surgeon can consult you about this exciting, life-changing procedure, or more information can be obtained at www.hyperpronation.com.

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Athlete's Foot (Tinea Pedis)

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection of the skin on the foot. The majority of these infections are caused by one of three fungal agents called dermatophytes. Athlete’s foot is by far the most common fungal infection of the skin. The infection can be either acute or chronic. The recurrent form of the disease is often associated with fungal-infected toenails. The acute form of the infection most often presents with moist, scaling between the toes with occasional small blisters and/or fissures. As the blistering breaks, the infection spreads and can involve large areas of the skin on the foot. The burning and itching that accompany the blisters may cause great discomfort that can be relieved by opening and draining the blisters or applying cool water compresses. The infection can also occur as isolated circular lesions on the bottom or top of the foot. As the skin breaks down from the fungal infection, a secondary bacterial infection can ensue.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of tenia pedis is generally made based upon the clinical presentation. A definitive diagnosis is made by taking a scraping of the skin and culturing it. It may take up to three weeks for the culture to grow the fungus. In some instances the culture may present a false negative result because the skin scraping was inadequate. Some doctors may perform a KOH prep of a skin scraping. This is examined under a microscope and may reveal elements that can make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment should be directed at controlling the fungal infection and treating any secondary bacterial infection with oral antibiotics. Soaking the feet in Epsom salts and warm water is helpful. Wearing sandals to reduce moisture accumulation and heat generated by closed shoes will also help in the control and spread of the infection. Other conditions that mimic acute athlete’s foot are contact dermatitis and pustular psoriasis.

The chronic form of athletes foot is a relatively noninflamatory type of infection. It is characterized by a dull redness to the skin and pronounced scaling. It may involve the entire bottom of the foot giving a “moccasin” appearance. It generally does not itch or result in the formation of blisters. This form of the disease frequently has an associated fungal infection of the toenails. There are good topical and oral medications available for the treatment of this condition. There are some less common causes of dry scaling skin on the feet.

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Bunion Deformity

One of the more common conditions treated by podiatric surgeons is the painful bunion. Patients with this condition will usually complain of pain when wearing certain shoes, especially snug fitting dress shoes, or with physical activity, such as walking or running. Bunions are most commonly treated by conservative means. This may involve shoe gear modification, padding and orthoses. When this fails to provide adequate relief, surgery is often recommended. There are several surgical procedures to correct bunions. Selection of the most appropriate procedure for each patient requires knowledge of the level of deformity, review of the x-rays and an open discussion of the goals of the surgical procedure. Almost all surgical procedures require cutting and repositioning the first metatarsal. In the case of mild to moderate bunion deformities the bone cut is most often performed at the neck of the metatarsal (near the joint).

Cause of Bunion Deformity

The classic bunion, medically known as hallux abductovalgus or HAV, is a bump on the side of the great toe joint. This bump represents an actual deviation of the 1st metatarsal and often an overgrowth of bone on the metatarsal head. In addition, there is also deviation of the great toe toward the second toe. In severe cases, the great toe can either lie above or below the second toe. Shoes are often blamed for creating these problems. This, however, is inaccurate. It has been noted that primitive tribes where going barefoot is the norm will also develop bunions. Bunions develop from abnormal foot structure and mechanics (e.g. excessive pronation), which place an undue load on the 1st metatarsal. This leads to stretching of supporting soft tissue structures such as joint capsules and ligaments with the end result being gradual deviation of the 1st metatarsal. As the deformity increases, there is an abnormal pull of certain tendons, which leads to the drifting of the great toe toward the 2nd toe. At this stage, there is also adaptation of the joint itself that occurs.

Symptoms Related to Bunion Deformity

The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot. Shoes will typically aggravate bunions. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box. The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other. On rare occasions, the joint itself can be acutely inflamed from the development of a sac of fluid over the bunion called a bursa. This is designed to protect and cushion the bone. However, it can become acutely inflamed, a condition referred to as bursitis.

Treatment of Bunion Deformity

Early treatment of bunions is centered on providing symptomatic relief. Switching to a shoe with a rounder, deeper toe box and made of a softer more pliable leather will often provide immediate relief. The use of pads and cushions to reduce the pressure over the bone can also be helpful for mild bunion deformities. Functional foot orthotics, by controlling abnormal pronation, reduces the deforming forces leading to bunions in the first place. These may help reduce pain in mild bunion deformities and slow the progression of the deformity. When these conservative measures fail to provided adequate relief, surgical correction is indicated.The choice of surgical procedures (bunionectomy) is based on a biomechanical and radiographic examination of the foot. Because there is actual bone displacement and joint adaptation, most successful bunionectomies require cutting and realigning the 1st metatarsal (an osteotomy). Simply “shaving the bump” is often inadequate in providing long-term relief of symptoms and in some cases can actually cause the bunion to progress faster. The most common procedure performed for the correction of bunions is the 1st metatarsal neck osteotomy, near the level of the joint. This refers to the anatomical site on the 1st metatarsal where the actual bone cut is made. Other procedures are performed in the shaft of the metatarsal bone (see procedures performed in the shaft of the metatarsal) and still other procedures are selected by the surgeon that are performed in the base of the metatarsal bone (see surgeries performed in the base of the metatarsal)

Glossary of Terms
Bunion Bump on the side of the foot at the base of the great toe
Bursitis An inflammation of a fluid sac often found overlying a bunion
Fixation Act of holding bones together, commonly require external devices such as pins, screws or plates
Hallux abductovalgus (HAV) Medical term describing the deviation of the great toe toward the 2nd toe; common component of bunions
Metatarsal A long bone of the foot that forms the ball of the foot
Orthoses Devices made from a mold of the foot used to control abnormal motion of the foot; may be prescribed to prevent progression of bunion deformity
Osteotomy Surgical procedure that creates a cut in a bone to achieve realignment; a “surgical fracture”
Pronation Motion of the foot which when excessive results in flattening of the arch; one possible cause of bunion formation
Toe box Part of the shoe that covers the toes

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Fungal Toenails, Yellowed or Deformed Toenails

One of the more common conditions treated by podiatric surgeons is the painful bunion. Patients with this condition will usually complain of pain when wearing certain shoes, especially snug fitting dress shoes, or with physical activity, such as walking or running. Bunions are most commonly treated by conservative means. This may involve shoe gear modification, padding and orthoses. When this fails to provide adequate relief, surgery is often recommended. There are several surgical procedures to correct bunions. Selection of the most appropriate procedure for each patient requires knowledge of the level of deformity, review of the x-rays and an open discussion of the goals of the surgical procedure. Almost all surgical procedures require cutting and repositioning the first metatarsal. In the case of mild to moderate bunion deformities the bone cut is most often performed at the neck of the metatarsal (near the joint).

Cause of Bunion Deformity

The classic bunion, medically known as hallux abductovalgus or HAV, is a bump on the side of the great toe joint. This bump represents an actual deviation of the 1st metatarsal and often an overgrowth of bone on the metatarsal head. In addition, there is also deviation of the great toe toward the second toe. In severe cases, the great toe can either lie above or below the second toe. Shoes are often blamed for creating these problems. This, however, is inaccurate. It has been noted that primitive tribes where going barefoot is the norm will also develop bunions. Bunions develop from abnormal foot structure and mechanics (e.g. excessive pronation), which place an undue load on the 1st metatarsal. This leads to stretching of supporting soft tissue structures such as joint capsules and ligaments with the end result being gradual deviation of the 1st metatarsal. As the deformity increases, there is an abnormal pull of certain tendons, which leads to the drifting of the great toe toward the 2nd toe. At this stage, there is also adaptation of the joint itself that occurs.

Symptoms Related to Bunion Deformity

The most common symptoms associated with this condition are pain on the side of the foot. Shoes will typically aggravate bunions. Stiff leather shoes or shoes with a tapered toe box are the prime offenders. This is why bunion pain is most common in women whose shoes have a pointed toe box. The bunion site will often be slightly swollen and red from the constant rubbing and irritation of a shoe. Occasionally, corns can develop between the 1st and 2nd toe from the pressure the toes rubbing against each other. On rare occasions, the joint itself can be acutely inflamed from the development of a sac of fluid over the bunion called a bursa. This is designed to protect and cushion the bone. However, it can become acutely inflamed, a condition referred to as bursitis.

Treatment of Bunion Deformity

Early treatment of bunions is centered on providing symptomatic relief. Switching to a shoe with a rounder, deeper toe box and made of a softer more pliable leather will often provide immediate relief. The use of pads and cushions to reduce the pressure over the bone can also be helpful for mild bunion deformities. Functional foot orthotics, by controlling abnormal pronation, reduces the deforming forces leading to bunions in the first place. These may help reduce pain in mild bunion deformities and slow the progression of the deformity. When these conservative measures fail to provided adequate relief, surgical correction is indicated.The choice of surgical procedures (bunionectomy) is based on a biomechanical and radiographic examination of the foot. Because there is actual bone displacement and joint adaptation, most successful bunionectomies require cutting and realigning the 1st metatarsal (an osteotomy). Simply “shaving the bump” is often inadequate in providing long-term relief of symptoms and in some cases can actually cause the bunion to progress faster. The most common procedure performed for the correction of bunions is the 1st metatarsal neck osteotomy, near the level of the joint. This refers to the anatomical site on the 1st metatarsal where the actual bone cut is made. Other procedures are performed in the shaft of the metatarsal bone (see procedures performed in the shaft of the metatarsal) and still other procedures are selected by the surgeon that are performed in the base of the metatarsal bone (see surgeries performed in the base of the metatarsal)

Glossary of Terms
Bunion Bump on the side of the foot at the base of the great toe
Bursitis An inflammation of a fluid sac often found overlying a bunion
Fixation Act of holding bones together, commonly require external devices such as pins, screws or plates
Hallux abductovalgus (HAV) Medical term describing the deviation of the great toe toward the 2nd toe; common component of bunions
Metatarsal A long bone of the foot that forms the ball of the foot
Orthoses Devices made from a mold of the foot used to control abnormal motion of the foot; may be prescribed to prevent progression of bunion deformity
Osteotomy Surgical procedure that creates a cut in a bone to achieve realignment; a “surgical fracture”
Pronation Motion of the foot which when excessive results in flattening of the arch; one possible cause of bunion formation
Toe box Part of the shoe that covers the toes

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Hallux Limitus

Stiffness of the big toe joint is termed Hallux Limitus. Hallux is the medical term for the big toe. When the big toe possesses no motion, it is termed Hallux Rigidus. To confuse the topic, the big toe joint may appear to have normal motion, but this motion can be limited when weight is on the foot and during the normal standing and walking. This is termed functional Hallux limitus, because it occurs during the normal functioning of the foot while walking. As with many conditions that affect the foot, functional conditions progress to structural deformities. As the condition progresses, a degenerative type of arthritis develops in the big toe joint.

Diagnosis

The most common cause of Hallux limitus is an abnormal alignment of the long bone behind the big toe joint called the first metatarsal bone. In this condition, the first metatarsal bone is elevated relative to the other metatarsal bones that lie behind the other toes. When this is the case, the big toe joint cannot move smoothly and jamming occurs at the joint. A variety of symptoms can begin to occur. One common problem that occurs is pain in the bottom of the big toe where a central callus can develop. The pain and callus develop because the big toe does not bend upward enough as the bottom of the toe is jammed into the ground. People who have diabetes must watch this area carefully because the pressure can cause the development of an ulceration that can become infected.

Another consequence of the jamming of the big toe joint is the development of bone spurs on the top of the joint. This bump on the top of the big toe joint can become painful as a result of shoe pressure. Pain within the joint is a common result of the limitation of movement of the big toe joint. With time, the big toe joint becomes stiff and painful to move. As the joint continues to degenerate more bone spurring occurs. If the condition is left untreated complete destruction of the joint can occur.

Diagnosis is made by performing a physical exam of the foot and the use of x-rays. In early stages of the condition x-rays may be normal. In later stages of the condition, narrowing of the joint and/or bone spurs may be evident.

Treatment

Initial treatment consists of using oral anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections and/or functional orthotics. Oral medications and cortisone injections are useful in treating the pain associated with the condition, but will not stop the process because they do not address the underlying cause of the condition. Functional orthotics, however, are designed to treat the cause of the condition. These devices will generally fit into normal shoes and correct the underlying functional problem with the joint. Orthotics will not reverse what damage may have occurred, but can slow or halt the on-going damage to the joint.

If the condition progresses to the point of spurring around the joint, surgery may be indicated. Depending upon the degree of degeneration of the joint, surgery may consist of simply removing the bone spurs around the joint or may require a total joint replacement (See surgery of Hallux limitus). Following surgery, the use of a functional orthotic is useful to improve the joint function.

If a painful callous exits on the bottom of the big toe it will frequently resolve and the pain subside with the use of functional orthotics and/or surgery to improve the motion of the joint.

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Hammertoes

Hammertoes are a contracture of the toes as a result of a muscle imbalance between the tendons on the top and the tendons on the bottom of the toe. They can be flexible or rigid in nature. When they are rigid, it is not possible to straighten the toe out by manipulating it. Frequently, they develop corns on the top of the toe as a result of rubbing on the shoe. They may also cause a bothersome callus on the ball of the foot. This occurs as a result of the toe pressing downward on the bone behind the toe. This area then becomes prominent and the pressure of the bone against the ground causes a callus to form. (Corns and Calluses)

They tend to slowly get worse with time and frequently flexible deformities become rigid. Treatment can be preventative, symptomatic or curative. (For information on hammertoe of the big toe see Hallux hammertoe)

Preventative treatment of hammertoe is directed toward the cause of the deformity. A functional orthotic is a special insert that can be prescribed by your podiatrist to address the abnormal functioning of the foot that causes the hammertoe. Functional orthotics can be thought of as contact lenses for your feet. They correct a number of foot problems that are caused by an abnormally functioning foot. Our feet, much like our eyes, change with time. Functional orthotics slow down or halt this gradual change in the foot. Often when orthotics are used for flexible hammertoes, the toes will overtime straighten out and correct themselves. Calf stretching exercises are also helpful. Calf stretching can help to overcome part of the muscle imbalance that causes the hammertoe.

Symptomatic treatment of hammertoes consists of such things as open toed shoes or hammertoe pads. There are over the counter corn removers for temporally reducing the painful callus often seen with the hammertoe. These medications must be used with caution. They are a mild acid that burns the callous off. These medications should never be used for corns or calluses between the toes. Persons with diabetes or bad circulation should never use these products.

Curative treatment of hammertoes varies depending upon the severity of the deformity. When the hammertoe is flexible, a simple tendon release in the toe works well. The recovery is rapid often requiring nothing more that a single stitch and a Band-aid. Of course if several toes are done at the same time, the recovery make take a bit longer. For the surgical correction of a rigid hammertoe, the surgical procedure consists of removing the damaged skin where the corn is located. Then a small section of bone is removed at the level of the rigid joint. The sutures remain in place for approximately ten days. During this period of time it is important to keep the area dry. Most surgeons prefer to leave the bandage in place until the patient’s follow-up visit, so there is no need for the patient to change the bandages at home. The patient is returned to a stiff-soled walking shoe in about two weeks. It is important to try and stay off the foot as much as possible during this time. Excessive swelling of the toe is the most common patient complaint. In severe cases of hammertoe deformity a pin may be required to hold the toe in place and the surgeon may elect to fuse the bones in the toe. This requires several weeks of recovery.

Complications associated with the surgery are infection, excessive swelling leading to delays in healing and potential deviation of the toe. If excessive bone is removed during the surgery, the toe may be a bit floppy. The toe always has a floppy feeling for several weeks following the surgery. This is normal and generally not permanent.

If pinning the toe is not required during the procedure, then the surgery could be performed in the doctor’s office under a local anesthesia. Some patients prefer the comfort of sedation during the surgery and if this is the case or if a pin must be placed, then the surgery could be performed in an outpatient surgery center.

Article provided by PodiatryNetwork.com.

Heel Pain, Heel Spurs

The most common form of heel pain, is pain on the bottom of the heel. It tends to occur for no apparent reason and is often worse when first placing weight on the foot. Patients often complain of pain the first thing in the morning or after getting up to stand after sitting. The pain can be a sharp, searing pain or present as a tearing feeling in the bottom of the heel. As the condition progresses there may be a throbbing pain after getting off your feet or there may be soreness that radiates up the back of the leg. Pain may also radiate into the arch of the foot.

To understand the cause of the pain one must understand the anatomy of the foot and some basic mechanics in the function of the foot. A thick ligament, called the plantar fascia, is attached into the bottom of the heel and fans out into the ball of the foot, attaching into the base of the toes. The plantar fascia is made of dense, fibrous connective tissue that will stretch very little. It acts something like a shock absorber. As the foot impacts the ground with each step, it flattens out lengthening the foot. This action pulls on the plantar fascia, which stretches slightly. When the heel comes off the ground the tension on the ligament is released. Anything that causes the foot to flatten excessively will cause the plantar fascia to stretch greater than it is accustom to doing. One consequence of this is the development of small tears where the ligament attaches into the heel bone. When these small tears occur, a very small amount of bleeding occurs and the tension of the plantar fascia on the heel bone produces a spur on the bottom of the heel to form. Pain experienced in the bottom of the heel is not produced by the presence of the spur. The pain is due to excessive tension of the plantar fascia as it tears from its attachment into the heel bone. Heel spur formation is secondary to the excessive pull of the plantar fascia where it attaches to the heel bone. Many people have heel spurs at the attachment of the plantar fascia with out having any symptoms or pain. There are some less common causes of heel pain but they are relatively uncommon.

There are several factors that cause the foot to flatten and excessively stretching the plantar fascia. The primary factor is the structure of a joint complex below the ankle joint, called the subtalar joint. The movement of this joint complex causes the arch of the foot to flatten and to heighten. Flattening of the arch of the foot is termed pronation and heightening of the arch is called supination. If there is excessive pronation of the foot during walking and standing, the plantar fascia is strained. Over time, this will cause a weakening of the ligament where it attaches into the heel bone, causing pain. When a person is at rest and off of their feet, the plantar fascia attempts to mend itself. Then, with the first few steps the fascia re-tears causing pain. Generally, after the first few steps the pain diminishes. This is why the heel pain tends to be worse the first few steps in the morning or after rest.

Another factor that contributes to the flattening of the arch of the foot is tightness of the calf muscles. The calf muscle attaches into the foot by the achilles tendon into the back of the heel. When the calf muscle is tight it limits the movement of the ankle joint. When ankle joint motion is limited by the tightness of the calf muscle it forces the subtalar joint to pronate excessively. Excessive subtalar joint pronation can cause several different problems to occur in the foot. In this instance, it results in excessive tension of the plantar fascia. Tightness of the calf muscles can be a result of several different factors. Exercise, such as walking or jogging will cause the calf muscle to tighten. Inactivity or prolonged rest will also cause the calf muscle to tighten. Women who wear high heels and men who wear western style cowboy boots will, over time, develop tightness in the calf muscles.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of heel pain and heel spurs is made by a thorough history of the course of the condition and by physical exam. Weight bearing x-rays are useful in determining if a heel spur is present and to rule out rare causes of heel pain such as a stress fracture of the heel bone, the presence of bone tumors or evidence of soft tissue damage caused by certain connective tissue disorders.

Treatment

Treatment of heel pain generally occurs in stages. At the earliest sign of heel pain, aggressive calf muscle stretching should be started. Additionally, taking an oral anti-inflammatory medication and over-the- counter arch supports or heel cushions may be beneficial. The next phase of treatment might consist of continued calf muscle stretching exercises,a night splint, cortisone injections and orthopedic taping of the foot to support the arch. If this treatment fails, or if there is reoccurrence of the heel pain, then functional foot orthotics might be considered. A functional orthotic is a device that is prescribed and fitted by your foot doctor, which fits in normal shoes like an arch support. Unlike an arch support, however the orthotic corrects abnormal pronation of the subtalar joint. Thus orthotics address the cause of the heel pain and abnormal pronation of the foot. Surgery to correct heel pain is generally only recommended if orthotic treatment has failed. There are some exceptions to this course of treatment and it is up to you and your doctor to determine the most appropriate course of treatment. Following surgical treatment to correct heel pain the patient will generally have to continue the use of orthotics. The surgery does not correct the cause of the heel pain. The surgery will eliminate the pain but the process that caused the pain will continue without the use of orthotics. If orthotics have been prescribed prior to surgery they generally do not have to be remade.

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Heel Pain, Heel Spurs and Plantar Fasciitis

A common foot complaint is pain in the bottom of the heel. This is often referred to as heel spurs or plantar fasciitis. It commonly is painful the first few steps in the morning or after rest. It tends to get worse the longer one stands during the day. It is caused by subtle changes in foot structure that occurs over time. These changes result in the gradual flattening of the arch. As this occurs a thick ligament (the plantar fascia) that is attached to the bottom of the heel and fans out into the ball of the foot is stretched excessively. This ligament acts as a shock absorber while walking. As the foot flattens it stretches. If it stretches too much it gets inflamed and causes pain. Over time the pull of the ligament creates a spur on the heel bone. It is important to realize that it is not the spur that causes the pain and therefore the spur does not need to be removed in most cases. This condition may also cause generalized arch pain called plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the plantar fascial ligament.

A common factor that contributes to this condition is tightness of the calf muscles. Women who wear high heels and people who walk for exercise will often develop this problem because of the tightness that results in the calf muscle as a result of these activities. A non-supportive shoe also contributes to this problem. Weight gain is another factor in developing heel pain.

Home Treatments

Stretching

Calf muscle stretching is very useful. The typical runners stretch by leaning into a wall is helpful. An alternative method of stretching is to stand approximately two feet from a wall. Facing the wall turn your feet inward so you are pigeon toed. Lean forward into the wall keeping your heels on the floor and the knees extended. Also keep your back straight and do not bend at the hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and do the stretch ten times in a row. Do the stretching three times each day. Always stretch the calf muscles following any form of exercise.

Over the Counter Arch Supports

Wear a supportive sport or walking shoe. This can be supplemented with a good over the counter arch support.

Oral Anti-inflammatory Medications

Medications like Advil, Tylenol, or Aleve may be of some benefit. Always read the medications directions and warnings before use.

Professional Care

If the heel pain persists your foot doctor may suggest a cortisone injection, taping the foot to support the arch, night splints to stretch the calf muscles at night while you are sleeping or functional foot orthotics. On occasion surgery may be required to cure this condition. Orthotics should be tried before surgery and should be used following the surgical procedure (See surgical treatment of plantar heel pain).

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Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are due to the penetration of the edges of the nail plate into the soft tissue of the toe. It begins with a painful irritation that often becomes infected. With bacterial invasion, the nail margin becomes red and swollen often demonstrating drainage or pus. In people who have diabetes or poor circulation, this relatively minor problem can be become quite severe. In this instance, a simple ingrown toenail can result in gangrene of the toe. Patients with joint replacements or pace makers are at risk of bacterial spread through the blood stream resulting in the spread of infection to these sites. These patients should seek medical attention at the earliest sign of an ingrown toenail. There are several causes of ingrown toenails: a hereditary tendency to form ingrown toenails, improperly cutting the toenails either too short or cutting into the side of the nail, and ill-fitting shoes can cause them. Children will often develop ingrown toenails as a result of pealing or tearing their toenails off instead of trimming them with a nail clipper. Once an ingrown toenail starts, they will often reoccur. Many people perform “bathroom” surgery to cut the nail margin out only to have it reoccur months later as the nail grows out.

Treatment

Treatment for ingrown toenails is relatively painless. The injection to numb the toe may hurt some, but a skilled doctor has techniques to minimize this discomfort. Once the toe is numb, the nail margin is removed and the nail root in this area is destroyed. Most commonly, the doctor will use an acid to kill the root of the nail, but other techniques are also available. It may take a few weeks for the nail margin to completely heal, but there are generally no restrictions in activity, bathing, or wearing shoes. Once the numbness wears off, there may be some very mild discomfort but rarely does this require pain medicine. A resumption of sports activities and exercise is generally permitted the following day.

There are very few complications associated with this procedure. Reoccurrence of the ingrown toenail can occur a small percentage of the time. Continuation of the infection is possible which can be controlled easily with oral antibiotics. On occasion, the remaining nail may become loose from the nail bed and fall off. A new nail will grow out to replace it over several months. With removal of the nail margin, the nail will be narrower and this should be expected.

To prevent ingrown toenails it is recommended to wear properly fitting shoes and to trim the toenails straight across and not too short.

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Metatarsal Stress Fracture

When excessive stress is placed upon the ball of the foot, a hairline break (fracture) of a long metatarsal bone may occur. This occurs most frequently to the second, third, or fourth metatarsal but can occur in any bone. Frequently, the injury is so subtle that you may not recall any specific occurrence. These fractures were at one time referred to as “March Fractures” in soldiers, who developed foot pain after long periods of marching. Stress fractures can occur during sports activities, in overweight individuals, or in those with weakened bones such as osteoporosis.

Diagnosis

A typical presentation for someone with a metatarsal stress fracture would be pain and swelling in the ball of the foot, which is most severe in the push off phase of walking. Pressing on the bones in this area of the foot will reproduce the pain. X-rays taken during the first two to three weeks after the injury often will not show any fracture. A bone scan at this stage will be much more sensitive in diagnosing the early stress fracture. The decision to order a bone scan will be up to your doctor. Often times the diagnosis can be made based upon clinical findings, thus making the bone scan unnecessary. After several weeks, an x-ray will show the signs of new bone healing in the area of the stress fracture.

Treatment

Treatment for a metatarsal stress fracture usually consists of rest, elevation, and ice initially. Sometimes a compression bandage is applied to help reduce the swelling. Frequently a post-operative type shoe or cam-walker is used to prevent you from pushing off the ball of your foot, thus eliminating any additional stress while the bone is healing. Occasionally a short leg walking cast may be applied for a short period of time. Typical healing times range from 4 to 8 weeks. After the fracture is healed, special attention should be paid to using a well-padded insole or a functional orthotic in the shoes to reduce the stress in this area. For those who may have osteoporosis, bone densitometry testing should be done, and appropriate treatment initiated to prevent further weakening of the bones.

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Neuroma

A neuroma is the swelling of nerve that is a result of a compression or trauma. They are often described as nerve tumors. However, they are not in the purest sense a tumor. They are a swelling within the nerve that may result in permanent nerve damage. The most common site for a neuroma is on the ball of the foot. The most common cause of neuroma in ball of the foot is the abnormal movement of the long bones behind the toes called metatarsal bones. A small nerve passes between the spaces of the metatarsals. At the base of the toes, the nerves split forming a “Y” and enter the toes. It is in this area the nerve gets pinched and swells, forming the neuroma. Burning pain, tingling, and numbness in one or two of the toes is a common symptom. Sometimes this pain can become so severe, it can bring tears to a patient’s eyes. Removing the shoe and rubbing the ball of the foot helps to ease the pain. As the nerve swells, it can be felt as a popping sensation when walking. Pain is intermittent and is aggravated by anything that results in further pinching of the nerve. When the neuroma is present in the space between the third and fourth toes, it is called a Morton’s Neuroma. This is the most common area for a neuroma to form. Another common area is between the second and third toes. Neuromas can occur in one or both of these areas and in one or both feet at the same time. Neuromas are very rare in the spaces between the big toe and second toe, and between the fourth and fifth toes. Neuromas have been identified in the heel area, resulting in heel pain.

A puncture wound or laceration that injures a nerve can cause a neuroma. These are called traumatic Neuromas. Neuromas can also result following a surgery that may result in the cutting of a nerve.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of Neuromas is made by a physical exam and a thorough history of the patient’s complaint. Conditions that mimic the pain associated with Neuromas are stress fracture of the metatarsals, inflammation of the tendons in the bottom of the toes, arthritis of the joint between the metatarsal bone and the toe, or nerve compression or nerve damage further up in the foot, ankle, knee, hip, or back. X-rays are generally taken to rule out a possible stress fracture or arthritis. Because nerve tissue is not seen on an x-ray, the x-ray will not show the neuroma. A skilled foot specialist will be able to actually feel the neuroma on his exam of the foot. Special studies such as MRI, CT Scan, and nerve conduction studies have little value in the diagnosis of a neuroma. Additionally, these studies can be very expensive and generally the results do not alter the doctor’s treatment plan. If the doctor on his exam cannot feel the neuroma, and if the patient’s symptoms are not what is commonly seen, then nerve compression at another level should be suspected. In this instance, one area to be examined is the ankle.

Just below the ankle bone on the inside of the ankle, a large nerve passes into the foot. At this level, the nerve can become inflamed. This condition is called Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. Generally, there is not pain at this site of the inflamed nerve at the inside of the ankle. Pain may instead be experienced in the bottom of the foot or in the toes. This can be a difficult diagnosis to make in certain circumstances. Neuromas, however, occur more commonly than Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Treatment

Treatment for the neuroma consists of cortisone injections, orthotics, chemical destruction of the nerve, or surgery. Cortisone injections are generally used as an initial form of treatment. Cortisone is useful when injected around the nerve, because is can shrink the swelling of the nerve. This relieves the pressure on the nerve. Cortisone may provide relief for many months, but is often not a cure for the condition. The abnormal movements of the metatarsal bones continue to aggravate the condition over a period of time.

To address the abnormal movement of the metatarsal bones, a functional foot orthotic can be used. These devices are custom-made inserts for the shoes that correct abnormal function of the foot. The combination treatment of cortisone injections and orthotics can be a very successful form of treatment. If, however, there is significant damage to the nerve, then failure to this treatment can occur. When there is permanent nerve damage, the patient is left with three choices: live with the pain, chemical destruction of the nerve, or surgical removal or decompression of the nerve (see neuroma surgery).

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Plantar Fasciitis Arch Pain

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick, fibrous ligament in the arch of the foot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia attaches into the heel bone and fans out toward the ball of the foot, attaching into the base of the toes. If this ligament is stretched excessively it will become inflamed and begin to cause pain. In severe instances the ligament can rupture resulting in immediate severe pain. If the ligament ruptures the pain is so great that the patient can not place weight on the foot. Should this happen, the foot should be elevated and an ice pack applied. An appointment with your foot doctor should be made at your earliest convenience. Sports such as tennis, racket ball, and aerobics can cause extreme tension on the plantar fascia resulting in small tears or rupture of the ligament. However, other less stressful activities can result in tears or rupture of the plantar fascia under the right set of circumstances. (For a more through discussion of the cause of plantar fasciitis see heel pain) One consequence of small tears in the plantar fascia is the formation of firm nodules within the plantar fascia, called fibromas.

Diagnosis

Taking a through history of the course of the condition and physical exam makes the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.

Treatment

Treatment of plantar fasciitis is similar to that for heel pain. Cortisone injections may be used for the treatment of plantar fascitits. The main emphasis of treatment is to reduce the forces that are causing the plantar fascia to stretch excessively. This includes calf muscle stretching,night splints, over the counter arch supports, and orthotics.

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Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction is one of several terms to describe a painful, progressive flatfoot deformity in adults. Other terms include posterior tibial tendon insufficiency and adult acquired flatfoot.

The term adult acquired flatfoot is more appropriate because it allows a broader recognition of causative factors, not only limited to the posterior tibial tendon, an event where the posterior tibial tendon looses strength and function.

The adult acquired flatfoot is a progressive, symptomatic (painful) deformity resulting from gradual stretch (attenuation) of the tibialis posterior tendon as well as the ligaments that support the arch of the foot.

Most flat feet are not painful, particularly those flat feet seen in children. In the adult acquired flatfoot, pain occurs because soft tissues (tendons and ligaments) have been torn. The deformity progresses or worsens because once the vital ligaments and posterior tibial tendon are lost, nothing can take their place to hold up the arch of the foot.

The painful, progressive adult acquired flatfoot affects women four times as frequently as men. It occurs in middle to older age people with a mean age of 60 years. Most people who develop the condition already have flat feet. A change occurs in one foot where the arch begins to flatten more than before, with pain and swelling developing on the inside of the ankle. Why this event occurs in some people (female more than male) and only in one foot remains poorly understood. Contributing factors increasing the risk of adult acquired flatfoot are diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

The following scheme of events is thought to cause the adult acquired flatfoot:

A person with flat feet has greater load placed on the posterior tibial tendon which is the main tendon unit supporting up the arch of the foot. Throughout life, aging leads to decreased strength of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The blood supply diminishes to tendons with aging as arteries narrow. Heavier, obese patients have more weight on the arch and have greater narrowing of arteries due to atherosclerosis. In some people, the posterior tibial tendon finally gives out or tears. This is not a sudden event in most cases. Rather, it is a slow, gradual stretching followed by inflammation and degeneration of the tendon. Once the posterior tibial tendon stretches, the ligaments of the arch stretch and tear. The bones of the arch then move out of position with body weight pressing down from above. The foot rotates inward at the ankle in a movement called pronation. The arch appears collapsed, and the heel bone is tilted to the inside. The deformity can progress until the foot literally dislocates outward from under the ankle joint.

There are three stages of the adult acquired flatfoot:

Stage I: Inflammation and swelling of the posterior tibial tendon around the inside of the ankle.

Stage II: Visible deformity comparing one foot to the other, as the symptomatic foot becomes flatter and more deformed. The deformity is movable and correctable in this stage.

Stage III:The foot progresses to a rigid, non-movable flat foot deformity that is painful, primarily on the outside of the ankle.

Diagnosis

The adult acquired flatfoot, secondary to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, is diagnosed in a number of ways with no single test proven to be totally reliable.

The most accurate diagnosis is made by a skilled clinician utilizing observation and hands on evaluation of the foot and ankle. Observation of the foot in a walking examination is most reliable. The affected foot appears more pronated and deformed compared to the unaffected foot. Muscle testing will show a strength deficit. An easy test to perform in the office is the single foot raise:

A patient is asked to step with full body weight on the symptomatic foot, keeping the unaffected foot off the ground. The patient is then instructed to “raise up on the tip toes” of the affected foot. If the posterior tibial tendon has been attenuated or ruptured, the patient will be unable to lift the heel off the floor and rise onto the toes. In less severe cases, the patient will be able to rise on the toes, but the heel will not be noted to invert as it normally does when we rise onto the toes.

X-rays can be helpful but are not diagnostic of the adult acquired flatfoot. Both feet – the symptomatic and asymptomatic – will demonstrate a flatfoot deformity on x-ray. Careful observation may show a greater severity of deformity on the affected side.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100{d1c084eaafb77c7b01402a11cfce087deb9e10f302f634601dd5f03cf7b207eb} accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.

Treatment

The adult acquired flatfoot is best treated early. There is no recommended home treatment other than the general avoidance of prolonged weightbearing in non-supportive footwear until the patient can be seen in the office of the foot and ankle specialist.

In Stage I, the inflammation and tendon injury will respond to rest, protected ambulation in a cast, as well as anti-inflammatory therapy. Follow-up treatment with custom-molded foot orthoses and properly designed athletic or orthopedic footwear are critical to maintain stability of the foot and ankle after initial symptoms have been calmed.

Once the tendon has been stretched, the foot will become deformed and visibly rolled into a pronated position at the ankle. Non-surgical treatment has a significantly lower chance of success. Total immobilization in a cast or Camwalker may calm down symptoms and arrest progression of the deformity in a smaller percentage of patients. Usually, long-term use of a brace known as an ankle foot orthosis is required to stop progression of the deformity without surgery.

A new ankle foot orthosis known as the Richie Brace has proven to show significant success in treating Stage II posterior tibial dysfunction and the adult acquired flatfoot. This is a sport-style brace connected to a custom corrected foot orthotic device that fits well into most forms of lace-up footwear, including athletic shoes. The brace is light weight and far more cosmetically appealing than the traditional ankle foot orthosis previously prescribed. Other types of braces are the Arizona brace, the California brace or the gauntlet brace. The decision on which type of brace to use is based upon the patients overall needs.

In cases where cast immobilization, orthoses and shoe therapy have failed, surgery is the next alternative. The goal of surgery and non-surgical treatment is to eliminate pain, stop progression of the deformity and improve mobility of the patient. Opinions vary as to the best surgical treatment for adult acquired flatfoot. Procedures commonly used to correct the condition include tendon debridement, tendon transfers, osteotomies (cutting and repositioning of bone) and joint fusions. (See surgical correction of adult acquired flatfoot)

Patients with adult acquired flatfoot are advised to discuss thoroughly the benefits vs. risks of all surgical options. Most procedures have long-term recovery mandating that the correct procedure be utilized to give the best long-term benefit. Most flatfoot surgical procedures require six to twelve weeks of cast immobilization. Joint fusion procedures require eight weeks of non-weightbearing on the operated foot – meaning you will be on crutches for two months.

The bottom line is: Make sure all of your non-surgical options have been covered before considering surgery. Your primary goals with any treatment are to eliminate pain and improve mobility. In many cases, with the properly designed foot orthosis or ankle brace, these goals can be achieved without surgical intervention.

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Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

Tendonitis can be a common problem in the foot as we continuously walk and use our feet on a daily basis. The posterior tibial tendon can be especially prone to tendonitis as it helps to maintain the arch of the foot and prevent excessive flattening (pronation) of the foot while walking, standing or running. Posterior tibial tendonitis can be a precursor to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction where there is progressive loss of strength in the tendon and a progressive flattening of the arch.

Anatomy

The posterior tibial tendon starts in the deep portion of the calf and runs behind the prominent bone on the inside of the ankle. The tendon continues along towards the foot and inserts into multiple locations on the inside and the bottom of the arch. With each step a tremendous amount of tension and stress is placed is on the posterior tibial tendon as it helps to maintain and recreate the arch of the foot. With each step there is a natural depression and recreation of the arch that allows for shock absorption. The amount of shock absorption or depression of the arch is variable from person to person depending on the architecture of their foot (flatfeet versus a very high arch). It would seem that only a flatfooted person would get posterior tibial tendonitis but this is not always the case. It can happen to people with any foot type, weight or activity level.

Symptoms

Symptoms of posterior tibial tendonitis include pain and swelling along the inside of the ankle and arch along the course of the tendon. Pain is present with exercise, extended periods of walking or standing. This discomfort will usually increase as the disease progresses and is localized along the course of the tendon around the inside of the ankle or along the inside of the arch. This pain initially is absent when at rest but may progress to the point where pain is present even when not active. Pain and swelling are signs of injury to the tendon. The sheath or sleeve that surrounds the tendon will produce excessive amounts of lubricating fluid in an attempt to allow the tendon to glide easier during the healing process. This excessive fluid production results in the swelling the patient sees and feels on the inside of the ankle and arch. In advanced cases the injury to the tendon that started as tendonitis may progress to a full or partial tear of the tendon.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis can often be made from your doctor by the history and physical exam. In many instances a MRI or ultrasound will be performed to determine the extent of damage to the posterior tibial tendon. A simple assessment of tendon strength can be performed by standing on the “tip of the toes” on each foot. The affected foot may feel weak and painful in cases of tendonitis. In advanced cases the patient may not be able to lift the heel from the ground as much or not at all in comparison to the unaffected foot.

Treatment

Treatment can depend on how long the symptoms have been present and if the amount of strength that is lost (if any) in the tendon. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, rest and orthotics are often first courses of treatment. Injections of cortisone type medications are performed on rare occasions and often accompanied by cast immobilization. These are all designed to decrease the inflammation in and around the tendon and to decrease the stresses placed on the tendon. In more severe cases a cast from the knee down may be utilized from four to six weeks to allow the tendon to completely rest without placing the day-to-day demands of walking on it. If these measures fail to produce acceptable results surgical intervention may be necessary to clean around the tendon and repair any defects in the tendon. Surgical repair is more commonly needed when there is a progressive weakness in the tendon. As mentioned earlier this loss of strength is called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction and is covered in detail in that section.

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Sesamoiditis

Sesamoid bones are commonly found in and around joints. While sesamoid bones can be found around any joint in the foot, they are consistently found within the joint of the great toe. The great toe joint contains 2 sesamoid bones, the tibial and fibular sesamoids.

The sesamoids serve 2 very important functions based on their location: 1) they serve to protect the large tendon to the great toe, the Flexor Hallucis Longus, which functions to pull the toe down against the ground during gait. The tendon courses between these two bones; 2) they also serve as a fulcrum for the short flexor tendon, Flexor Hallucis Brevis, which attaches to the base of the great toe. This tendon stabilizes the toe against the ground at the push-off phase of gait and allows for effective forward propulsion of the body.

Because of their location and the amount of force transmitted through these bones, they are susceptible to a variety of injuries. Additionally, certain foot structures and activities will increase the susceptibility of these bones. Fractures and inflammation (sesamoiditis) are quite common. Fractures of a sesamoid bone can involve either the tibial or fibular sesamoid. This is an actual break within the bone. Because the flexor hallucis brevis tendon is attached to the sesamoids, there is often displacement of the fracture, leading to a high rate of delayed healing or even nonunion.

Sesamoiditis is an inflammatory condition of the periosteum or bone lining of the sesamoid bone. Typically, patients will relate a history of excessive activity as a precursor to pain in this location. Other risk factors include: running, jumping from a height, ballet dancing, wearing of high heels or shoes with little cushioning and high-arched foot type. With early and appropriate treatment, these often improve.

Diagnosis

Initial diagnosis is made by a careful history and physical examination. Pain localized to the bottom of the great toe joint is the typically presentation of these types of injury. The pain can be easily localized to either the tibial or fibular sesamoid by directly pressing on either bone. Movement of the joint may also duplicate the patient’s pain. Occasionally, swelling and redness may also be seen depending on the mechanism of injury. X-rays are often obtained to differentiate sesamoiditis from a sesamoid fracture. Three different views of the sesamoids are commonly taken. Also, when sesamoid fractures are suspected, it is helpful to x-ray the uninvolved foot as well. Typically, the sesamoid bones are 2 well-defined bones on x-ray. This is the case for approximately 85{d1c084eaafb77c7b01402a11cfce087deb9e10f302f634601dd5f03cf7b207eb} of the population. However, in 15{d1c084eaafb77c7b01402a11cfce087deb9e10f302f634601dd5f03cf7b207eb} of patients each sesamoid bone may consist of 2 or more fragments (referred to as multipartite or several pieces). This will often make the distinction between normal and fracture difficult. In this case, a bone scan or MRI can be helpful. It is important to differentiate between sesamoiditis versus fracture since the treatment is dramatically different.

Treatment

The treatment of sesamoid injuries is dependent on making a definitive diagnosis. Because sesamoiditis is an inflammatory condition, treatment directed at reducing inflammation is often helpful. This may include: rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. More resistant cases of sesamoiditis may be helped by clf muslce stretching, a cam-walker removable cast and/or an occasional cortisone injection. Cortisone injections should only be performed after the physician is fairly certain a fracture does not exist.

Long-term therapy must be geared to identifying the cause of the sesamoiditis so as to avoid these situations or to accommodate foot deformities or modify shoes. This may include the use of orthotic devices, calf muscle stretching, or a dorsal night splint. This may also include the limited use of high heel shoes.

Sesamoid fractures require a more aggressive course of treatment because of the high risk of nonunion. Cast immobilization for 6-8 weeks is the initial treatment of choice. The patient should then be advanced gradually to full weightbearing with a removable brace. Even in spite of appropriate treatment, many sesamoid fractures go on to delayed or non-unions. When conservative care has failed to render the patient pain free, consideration to removal of the offending sesamoid should be given. Once again, long-term therapy should be geared at identifying the cause of the fracture and treating or modifying those activities leading to the fracture in the first place.

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Marjorie C. Ravitz, DPM, PC

Podiatric Medicine • Foot & Ankle Surgery

Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery
Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons