How can podiatry nourish your soul?
Podiatrists are specialists in the treatment and prevention of medical conditions affecting the feet and legs. They are trained to diagnose and treat issues ranging from calluses and corns to complications of underlying health conditions including diabetes and sports injuries. Surgeons of podiatry are qualified to perform operations on the feet and ankles, and all podiatrists are trained to carry out simple procedures for the surgical treatment of ingrown or deformed toenails.
A medical papyrus from ancient Egypt estimated to be more than 3500 years old is among the earliest records of specialised treatment for foot conditions. Hippocrates, often described as the father of modern medicine, is said to have discussed the removal of corns and calluses from the feet, and the scalpel is believed to have been originally invented for this purpose. Practitioners specialising in the treatment of foot diseases were formerly known as ‘chiropodists’, and this term is still sometimes used today.
In Australia, podiatrists are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), and normally, you don’t need a referral to visit one.
Benefits of podiatry
Considering how much time most of us spend on our feet, it’s not surprising that podiatrists treat such a wide variety of conditions. They can diagnose general aches of the feet, as well as localised problems such as heel pain, and address the underlying causes, which might be a mechanical issue such as poorly fitting shoes.
They are skilled in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal injuries to the feet and lower legs, including sprains and stress fractures. Other structural and chronic concerns that may benefit from podiatric care include flat feet and bursitis. Podiatrists often treat conditions including ingrown, thickened or deformed toenails, as well as fungal infections. They can also provide expert care for care for calluses, warts, heel fissures and other skin-related problems.
Research suggests podiatric treatment including ankle strengthening exercises and inserts for footwear may help reduce the incidence of fall-related injuries among elderly people. Podiatry is recommended as a “vital component” in the management of bunions, gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Foot problems related to diabetes are among the more common conditions treated by podiatrists, and there is evidence to suggest podiatric care may significantly reduce the incidence of complications associated with diabetes.
Podiatry may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Achilles tendonitis
- Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis
- Bunions, calluses and corns
- Foot, heel and ankle issues
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- Shoulder and elbow issues
- Sports injuries
- Sprains, strains and ligament injuries
What to expect from a podiatry session
Your first appointment with a podiatrist is likely to take about 40 minutes, and you will need to bring any X-rays or other imaging and documents related to your condition if available. You should also bring the footwear you use most frequently. The podiatrist will ask you about the health issue you are concerned about, as well as your medical history and what sports or other forms of exercise you might do regularly.
Your practitioner will perform a careful examination of your feet and legs, as well as a gait analysis, which involves observing and measuring key parameters about the way you walk. If you have diabetes, the podiatrist will test the sensation levels in your feet and assess circulation to your lower extremities.
The podiatrist will complete a diagnosis and provide you with a detailed treatment plan, possibly including exercises for you to do or even lifestyle advice. Simple issues such as calluses or hardened skin might be treated on the spot. Depending on your condition, you might also be provided with custom-designed orthotic supports, or shoe inserts, to correct the position of your feet and potentially improve your posture.
If you have a severely ingrown nail, you might wonder, what is a podiatrist likely to do for treatment? A typical procedure is called a partial nail avulsion, which involves surgically removing a small section of your toenail under local anaesthetic. This operation takes about an hour and you will not need stitches, so you can walk straight after it’s finished.
Podiatrists generally have a lower risk profile than pedicurists and similar professionals because of their strict attention to sterile and hygienic working conditions. However, although your health is unlikely to get worse due to podiatric care, there are limitations to what can be achieved despite the most conscientious efforts. In high-risk cases of diabetes-related foot problems, podiatry is not always successful in preventing major medical problems.
If you have an injury or other health issue that your podiatrist is not qualified to treat, they will refer you to a GP or other health professional to ensure you will receive the most appropriate care. Don’t hesitate to ask your podiatrist about any concerns you might have, or to explain your treatment and provide advice about preventing a recurrence of your foot-health problems.