With April comes signs of spring. For us Minnesotans, it means time to get out-and-about after a long winter. Hiking, walking, and running are all activities we enjoy as the weather warms up, which is why it’s also fitting that April is National Foot Health Awareness Month. This means, it’s time to take a “step back” when it comes to your foot health, what it means to you, and what you can do to treat your feet right.
Most people don’t think too much about their foot health, but like any part of our body, it’s important to develop healthy habits to keep them free from injury, pain, and illness throughout our lives. We spoke with Fairview Range’s Dr. Stacey Helland, DPM, to learn more about the role of a podiatrist, misconceptions surrounding podiatry, and what patients could be doing to help keep their feet healthy.
What exactly is podiatry?
“Although the focus of podiatry is on the foot and ankle, podiatry school is not the study of only the foot,” explains Helland. “Podiatric school is a four-year doctorate program including the study of the entire human body with an emphasis on the lower extremity. School is followed by a three-year surgical residency which includes clinical rotations through multiple healthcare specialties including, but not limited to, endocrinology, rheumatology, internal medicine, pathology, vascular surgery, general surgery, psychology, and infectious disease.”
What are some misconceptions about podiatry that you’d like to address?
“Podiatrists are not just toenail clippers,” explains Helland. “Nail debridement is part of routine diabetic foot care in high risk patients, but there are many other aspects of podiatry, including the treatment of fractures in the foot, plantar fasciitis, generalized foot pain, Achilles tendon pain and ruptures, bunions, hammertoes, arthritic foot pain, diabetic ulcer wound care and prevention (including limb salvage surgical procedures), and sports medicine.”
Nearly everyone experiences foot pain at some point in their life. What are some tips you have to help?
“Proper shoe gear plays a large role in treating foot pain,” says Helland. “Although lightweight shoes work well for some individuals, they do not provide the support required for most individuals and can lead to further foot pain. A good tennis shoe is one that bends at the toe, and the heel is rigid (it cannot be easily bent when squeezed), and the sole of the shoe is firm (you cannot bend or twist the shoe in half). If you are experiencing foot pain, take a break from the lightweight shoes, dress shoes, and flip flops, and wear a stable tennis shoe.”
What are some strong tell-tale signs that it’s time to see a podiatrist?
“Any time foot pain is affecting your daily activities, it is time to have the pain evaluated,” clarifies Helland. “Many individuals delay seeing a provider for their foot because they fear they will need a surgical correction of their foot, but many foot injuries have conservative treatment options that can first be implemented to decrease the pain.”
Have you always been quick to dismiss your foot pain? Does the pain make it difficult to perform everyday activities? Whether you’ve been experiencing foot pain from a recent injury, surgery, or if it’s been interfering with your life for years, know that there’s more you could be doing to help enhance your quality of life.
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