Which physician is best to treat foot and ankle pain?

25 Jun

We sure take our feet and ankles for granted, don’t we?

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That is, until the Millenium Falcon breaks our ankle, or a foul ball clips our right foot. Ouch.

When your feet are painful, you’re miserable. Your lifestyle is instantly affected – pain forces you to dial back or give up walking, running, dancing, standing, or your favorite sports. Prolonged pain might even cause you to go from star athlete to couch potato.

It’s appropriate to visit the ER if you have an unusual amount of pain in your feet or ankles, especially if the pain is sudden and intense, is accompanied by bleeding or swelling, or if your foot and ankle have been involved in a trauma like a fall down the stairs. Or if you tried to break a cement block in half with absolutely no martial arts training.

For less painful events, like a suspected fracture, or wounds that won’t heal, many people choose to see their primary physician, which may or may not be a good choice, depending on that  physician’s field of expertise.

And for even less worrisome injuries, like a minor sprain, or minor heel pain, some seek no medical attention at all – which is never a good idea, as both injuries can develop into more complicated conditions, especially for athletes.

Which doctor is expert in treating foot and ankle problems?

When you have trouble with your ears, you should see an ENT. Trouble with your knees, an orthopedist. When you have pain or discomfort in your feet, toes, or ankles, you should see a podiatrist.

Podiatrists and podiatric surgeons are trained exclusively in the treatment of foot and ankle disorders – they do nothing but study the foot and ankle, it’s diseases and deformities. After all, 1/4 of all of the bones in your body are in your feet, and there are many conditions unique to this area of the body. That’s a lot of ground to cover in med school. If they choose to be a podiatric surgeon, they complete further schooling to study surgical techniques to correct these problems.

In 99% of cases, a podiatrist can resolve your ankle, toe, or foot problem much faster than a general physician. Podiatrists are also expert at spotting the early signs of diseases you can easily overlook, like diabetic foot disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

Without your feet in good working order, your life can be…. well, challenging. Don’t take them for granted.

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