Our bones are important aspects of our body and they are constantly changing. The heavier the workload for a bone, the more likely it is that calcium will be placed in it. When a bone isn’t used often, there won’t be much calcium within it. When stress from repetitive loads prevent the bone from being able to repair itself, cracks will start to form. Stress fractures are defined as cracks in a bone that result from repetitive force, such as overuse.
The most common cause of stress fractures is a sudden increase in intensity and duration of physical activity. For example, if you begin to run long distances without working your way into doing so, you will be more likely to develop a stress fracture.
Common symptoms of stress fractures are pain and swelling near the weight bearing area on the injured bone. When initial x-rays are performed, it is possible that the fracture will not show up. However, once the stress on the area continues, the damage will increase, and the fracture will be severe enough to show up on an x-ray. Certain parts of the foot are more likely to develop stress fractures than others. Areas that typically have these fractures are: the metatarsals, the navicular bone, the calcaneus, tibia, and fibula.
Since women are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, they are twice as likely as men to sustain a stress fracture. Additionally, old age causes a decrease in bone mineral density which is why elderly people are also likely to develop these fractures.
It is important for you to be professionally diagnosed by a podiatrist if you suspect you have a stress fracture, because there are other injuries that can easily be mistaken for a fracture. Sprains, strains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and Morton’s neuroma can all easily be mistaken for stress fractures in the foot. Your podiatrist will likely ask you a series of questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing. These questions will help your doctor identify whether you have a stress fracture.
The best method of treatment for a stress fracture is rest. Additionally, a walking boot, cast, or crutches, will help rest the area that is injured. The typical healing time for stress fractures is 4-12 weeks, however this depends on which bone is involved.
Overtraining and overusing the feet are the main causes of common running injuries. A number of these common injuries are caused by overrunning. Runner’s knee is a condition that is characterized by the back of the kneecap beginning to wear away and cause pain in the knee. This frequently occurs due to either a decrease in strength in the quadriceps muscles or ill-fitting shoes that are lacking in proper support for the inside of the forefoot. Strengthening exercises focusing on the quad muscle and sports orthotics are the usual treatments for those suffering from runner’s knee. Prevention of the condition lies in a focus on hip strengthening and quad-strengthening to keep the kneecap aligned. To help learn the best exercise to heal runner’s knee, one can also undergo physical therapy.
One common injury, called iliotibial band syndrome, is often caused by overtraining. This condition occurs when the iliotibial band gets irritated, creating pain and discomfort in the outside knee area. Plantar fasciitis, another common running injury, also occurs as a result of inflammation and irritation. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and irritation of the bone in the foot. A large amount of pain is often experienced due to plantar fasciitis. The condition can be caused by a high arch, improper footwear, tight muscles, or flat feet. It can best be avoided by stretching and wearing appropriate footwear that supports the foot.
Another common injury for runners is stress fractures. These injuries occur due to running style, overtraining, or a lack of calcium. Stress fractures most often occur in several locations in runners, including the inner bone of the leg, the thighbone, the bone at the base of the spine and the bones of the toes. Stress fractures are best prevented by wearing proper footwear and by running on flat and hard surfaces; this will absorb some of the shock created during running.
Aside from overtraining, other causes of common running injuries include ill-fitting footwear, a lack of flexibility and strength, and irregular biomechanics. The best way to avoid running injuries is to prevent them from even occurring. Both iliotibial band syndrome and stress fractures are preventable. The first step that should be taken to prevent running injuries is to only wear footwear that fits properly and that is appropriate for whatever activity you are doing. Running shoes are the only protective gear available to runners that can safeguard them from sustaining injuries. Choosing the right pair of shoes is therefore extremely important. While running shoes are an important factor, it is also important to consider other facets of your running routine such as training schedules, flexibility, and strengthening. These elements should be considered and altered according to your running needs to best maximize your run and minimize the possibility of injury. Careful stretching before and after a run should also be considered to help prevent running injuries. Stretching muscles enables greater flexibility and a lesser chance of sustaining injury.
Foot and ankle injuries are common among people who participate in sports. Several factors contribute to this. They include failing to stretch or warm up properly, not wearing the proper type of shoe and not taping or providing other types of support for the ankle or foot. The most common foot and ankle injuries suffered by people involved in sports are plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and Achilles tendon damage or ruptures. If not treated properly, they can lead to permanent disability.
Treating these injuries is relatively simple if they are identified and addressed early. Many athletes dismiss the initial aches and pains associated with injury as just soreness or tired muscles. Their first response is usually to try to work through it. This can lead to serious problems. Many minor injuries are made far more serious when athletes continue to put strain and pressure on them. That attitude can change a mild strain into a serious strain and a minor tear into a rupture. Athletes should have unusual aches and pains evaluated by a skilled medical professional.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful injury. It is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue running from the heel to the base of the toes. If left untreated, it can lead to a degenerative disease called plantar fasciosis. There are several effective treatments for this ailment. Doctors often prescribe rest, massages, stretching, night splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids or surgery, usually in that order. The most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is orthotics, which offers foot support. Surgery is occasionally used as a last resort, but it comes with the risk of nerve damage and infection and often does not stop the pain.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Running, jumping and walking all impact this tendon. Two common injuries to the Achilles tendon are tendonitis and a rupture of the tendon. Tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon often caused by an increase in the amount of stress placed on it. Non-surgical treatments include rest, ice or anti-inflammatory medication. A rupture (tear) of the Achilles tendon can be treated by placing the lower leg in a cast for several weeks or with surgery. Many physicians feel surgery is the better option because it lowers the risk of re-ruptures. Both methods require 4 to 6 months of rehabilitation.
Ankle sprains are the most common sports related foot and ankle injury. A sprain occurs when the ligament holding the ankle bones and joint stretches beyond its normal range. It can be treated non-surgically with a combination of rest, ice wrapped around the joint for 30 minutes immediately after injury, compression by a bandage and elevating the ankle above the heart for 48 hours. This combination is referred to as RICE. Severe ankle sprains in which the ligaments are torn may require reconstructive surgery followed by rehabilitation.
Blisters are pockets of fluid that occur under the top layer of your skin. These fluid pockets are usually filled with pus, blood, or serum. Blisters may itch or hurt and can appear as a single bubble or in clusters.
The most common types of blisters are friction blisters. This type of blister may be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight. Friction blisters can also occur on the hands. A change in temperature may also cause blisters on the feet. In the freezing air, frostbite on your toes can lead to blisters, as well as sunburn from hot weather.
The best way to treat a blister is to keep it clean and dry. Most blisters will get better on their own. Once the skin absorbs the fluid within the blister, it will flatten and eventually peel off. You should avoid popping your blister unless you podiatrist does it for you. Additional treatment options include applying an ice pack to the blister or using over-the-counter blister bandages to cover the affected area.
If your blister becomes discolored, inflamed, or worsens it is advised that you speak to your podiatrist. Blisters that are yellow, green, or purple may be infected and require immediate medical attention. Blisters that are abnormally colored may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition such as herpes.
A bunion is an enlargement of the base joint of the toe that connects to the foot, often formed from a bony growth or a patch of swollen tissues. It is caused by the inward shifting of the bones in the big toe, toward the other toes of the foot. This shift can cause a serious amount of pain and discomfort. The area around the big toe can become inflamed, red, and painful.
Bunions are most commonly formed in people who are already genetically predisposed to them or other kinds of bone displacements. Existing bunions can be worsened by wearing improperly fitting shoes. Trying to cram your feet into high heels or running or walking in a way that causes too much stress on the feet can exacerbate bunion development. High heels not only push the big toe inward, but shift one's body weight and center of gravity towards the edge of the feet and toes, expediting bone displacement.
A podiatrist knowledgeable in foot structure and biomechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.
Wearing wider shoes can reduce pressure on the bunion and minimize pain, and high heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem; but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.
For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone or by rearranging the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that avoid placing pressure on the toe, as the big toe may move back to its former orientation toward the smaller toes.