Treatments for Foot Pain, Ankle Pain, Toe Pain and Heel Pain

A study from the Institute of Preventive Foot Health found that nearly 80 percent of people over 21 have had at least one problem with their feet. Yet only 59 percent of people said they went to a specialist to address it.Doctor treating patient with foot pain | Muir Orthopaedic Specialists | East SF Bay Area

Various kinds of foot problems have a direct bearing on a person’s quality of life. Not only are the associated pain and decreased mobility uncomfortable and inconvenient, they can also result in a person not being active and not exercising. This can cause even worse health conditions. And without treatment, the foot problems and the other negative health effects will most likely worsen.

Muir Orthopaedic Specialists (MOS) takes a multifaceted approach to foot, ankle, toe and heel pain, conditions and treatment. Our physicians specializing in foot and ankle orthopedics have undergone five years of residency, plus fellowship study and certification in this specific area of the body. These orthopedic surgeons and their physician assistants are uniquely trained and experienced in treating every condition related to the foot and ankle, from the simplest infection to the most complex issues requiring surgery.

The foot and ankle work together to provide balance, movement, stability and propulsion. This system consists of 26 bones and 33 joints connected by ligaments, tendons and muscles.

In general, the foot gets longer and wider as a person ages. Over time the arch will settle, the fat on the heel will thin out, joints will stiffen, and a person can lose balance. These could all lead to pain in the ankle, foot or heel.

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Difference between an orthopedic surgeon and a podiatrist

Many times people with foot problems are confused about what kind of healthcare provider they should see. Knowing the difference between a podiatrist and an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the foot and ankle is helpful prior to making a treatment decision.

One of the many differences between the two is that an orthopedic surgeon has completed study at an accredited medical school and has been awarded a medical degree, or M.D. Podiatrists do not have this distinction. Additionally, orthopedic surgeons undergo five extensive years of postgraduate training called a residency in which they become proficient in all musculoskeletal disorders. After these five years, our orthopedic surgeons chose to undergo additional training focusing on the foot and ankle.

Orthopedic surgeons will treat all conditions of the foot and ankle, both surgically and nonsurgically. Our orthopedic surgeons are able to diagnose and manage straightforward problems as well as the most complex ones that can arise. At MOS we think the orthopedic distinction is an important one and a big advantage for the patient.

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Common problems we treat that cause ankle and foot pain

Learn more about foot and ankle conditions

Foot and ankle treatment options at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists

Following diagnosis, we generally try to treat ankle and foot pain and conditions with the least invasive methods. When necessary, surgical correction can be the best solution, and we are especially trained and skilled in the latest, most effective procedures. Following are various treatment options.

Medication

Medications can relieve inflammation, ease pain and slow bone loss in the foot and ankle. Prior to starting medication, it is important to consult a doctor who can identify the cause of the pain and recommend medication as an accurate treatment option.

Braces, orthotics and orthopedic shoes

Before a person purchases a support device, he or she should be seen by an orthopedic specialist to learn if a brace, orthotics or orthopedic shoe would be a helpful treatment option for the cause of the problem. Our orthopedists use many types of braces, orthotics and custom shoes to address underlying conditions and reduce pain in the foot and ankle.

  • A brace for foot or ankle pain can protect an area of the foot or ankle while it is healing or help reduce the stress on the affected area.
  • Orthotics are foot pads or heel inserts that can be used to treat various conditions by supporting the foot or ankle, improving the function of the foot or ankle, and preventing, correcting or accommodating foot deformities. They can be custom made or purchased off the shelf.
  • Orthopedic shoes can be modified to accommodate the needs of each individual’s foot. There are now more styles of orthopedic shoes to suit all fashion tastes.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can loosen the joints and muscles, educate the patient on proper movement and gait, and provide strengthening exercises to restore mobility. Physical therapy can be used on its own or as rehabilitation after surgery.

Injections

Another option for treatment prior to surgery includes medical injections in the area of the pain on the foot, heel, toe or ankle. Some injections offered at MOS include:

  • Corticosteroids. A steroid mixture that is used as an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling in the foot or ankle.
  • Platelet rich plasma (PRP). Is an injection that uses the patient’s own concentrated platelets that stimulate healing in the area treated. This is best used to repair damaged cartilage, tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones.
  • Stem cells. This injection uses a patient’s stem cells in the area of pain and damage to help the body heal naturally.

Surgery

MOS surgeons have a range of expertise to apply when surgery is needed to treat the cause of the foot, ankle, toe or heel pain. When possible we lean toward an arthroscopy approach, which is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeons treat the problem using small incisions and a small camera for internal viewing to perform the operation.

Here are just a few of the many of surgeries we specialize in.

  • Bunionectomy. Bunions vary in shape and size, so there are multiple surgical options. In most cases the surgery includes correcting the alignment of the bone and repairing the soft tissue around the big toe.
  • Flatfoot surgery to fix a flatfoot can be done with three types of techniques: soft tissue procedures, bone cuts or bone fusions. Frequently surgery includes a combination of methods.
  • Fracture treatment or repair. Most foot fractures can be healed with the use of casts, ridged shoes or in the case of a broken toe, taping it to a healthy toe. But at times a fracture in the foot or toe does require surgery to reposition the bone and place hardware to hold it in place while it heals.
  • Tendon repair or reconstruction. Ankle tendon injuries could require a repair or reconstruction of the tendon. If there is enough healthy tendon left, the orthopedic surgeon will reconnect the two pieces. If that is not an option, the surgeon can perform a tendon graft using a piece of tendon from another part of the body.
  • Deformity corrections. Our surgeons have experience treating a range of foot and ankle deformities that a patient could be born with, that were caused by an accident or developed over time. Each treatment is customized for the patient
  • Cheilectomy. This operation removes a bony lump on the top of the main joint of the big toe that is caused by arthritis.
  • Osteotomy. A surgeon cuts and repositions a bone. This is used in the foot to realign a bunion or first metatarsal (the bone behind the big toe).
  • Fusion for arthritis. If damaged joints are causing significant pain or immobility, the doctor may recommend a fusion of the ankle, hindfoot, midfoot or toe. This surgery will bind together the bones of the arthritic joint by using small metal screws or small plates.
  • Ankle replacement. This is a treatment used for an ankle joint that has been severely damaged by arthritis or trauma. The surgeon will make a cut in the front and side of the ankle and remove the damaged cartilage and bone. The surgeon will then smooth the surface of the remaining bone and replace the joint parts with artificial parts. This treatment allows the patient to still have a range of motion after the surgery compared to a fusion.
  • Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement (STAR). This specific type of ankle replacement is the primary choice at MOS.
  • Lateral ankle ligament reconstruction. This surgery restores stability to the ankle in people with weak ankles that give way frequently.