5 signs you might need to see a podiatrist
Podiatrist Emily Smith explains how some common issues can be treated.
When it comes to assessing and managing foot pain and problems, a podiatrist is well-equipped to help you get back on track.
On top of at least four years of university study to specialise in the foot and lower limb, a podiatrist may further specialise in musculo-skeletal pain and injury (sports podiatry), skin and nail issues (general podiatry) or the diabetic foot (high risk foot care).
A sports podiatry consultation typically involves a comprehensive assessment of the site of pain, a walking (and running) biomechanical assessment, plus a short and long-term management plan.
The podiatrist's primary role is to identify if there is an underlying mechanical issue contributing to the injury or pain. If so, then a management plan to correct or reduce the underlying structural driver may be required. Footwear recommendation, strengthening and stretching exercises and gait advice may also be applicable.
If there is no direct clinical correlation between your pain and biomechanics, then further investigation and referral to a specialist may be required.
Here are a few ailments you might need to see a podiatrist for.
“The podiatrist's primary role is to identify if there is an underlying mechanical issue contributing to the injury or pain.”
1. Tired, aching feet and legs
A common presentation for tradies and retailers alike, fatigue of the feet and legs often present after a period of walking and standing. It is often related to poor footwear and can be associated with high arch or low arch foot posture.
2. Bony deformities including bunions and hammertoes
Bony deformities are often due to a mechanical dysfunction causing a gradual shift in the bone alignment and a protruding bony prominence. Osteoarthritic change at the joint or surrounding joints may also occur.
Before heading to the surgeon's office, conservative management to address the mechanical dysfunction including simple unloading, supportive devices and appropriate footwear can often result in a significant improvement in pain and function.
3. Heel pain
In adults, this can be related to overload and inflammation of the plantar fascia (plantar fasciitis), the fat pad surrounding the heel, and/or a heel spur. In children aged 8-14, heel pain is likely to be a common overuse injury called Sever's Disease, where the growth plate at the heel becomes inflamed.
A plantar fascial tear and a growth plate fracture can go undiagnosed, so make sure you seek professional advice promptly, particularly when there is an inability to bear weight on the foot.
4. Foot skin and nail problems
A general podiatrist should be the first point of call for skin and nail problems of the foot. Often a simple, pain-free debridement of built up dead skin can immediately resolve pain involved with corns and callouses.
A podiatrist is also very well equipped to diagnose and manage skin conditions of the foot including warts and recurrent blistering. Ingrown, thickened and fungal nails are best managed by a podiatrist.
5. Diabetes-related foot problems
As part of a comprehensive diabetic management plan to reduce diabetic foot complications, a podiatrist's role is to ensure that the skin supplied by diabetic-affected nerves and vascular supply are carefully monitored annually (or as required), and any changes are managed appropriately. The podiatrist will provide education on self-foot care as well as provide ongoing nail and skin care when required.