Podiatry and physical therapy have a long history together. Podiatrists are experts at diagnosing and treating foot and ankle pain and instability. Physical therapy is often utilized to reduce inflammation and pain, improve flexibility and joint range of motion, and strengthen muscles. Physical therapy is also important in improving overall stability in an effort to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.
Two of the most common conditions treated by Kansas City FootSpecialist, Dr. Mark Green include PlantarFasciitis (pain on the bottom of the heel and arch) and Achilles Tendinitis (pain in the back of the heel extending up the leg). Both of these painful conditions are characterized by pain with walking, running or exercising and may be very painful with your initial steps after prolonged periods of rest, like when you first get up in the morning. That’s because these are both inflammatory conditions. The ligament on the bottom of your foot and the tendon that attaches to the back of the heel gets inflamed. It can be caused by overuse, but is commonly a result of a long-standing instability in the way your foot functions. If your foot is unstable, or flattens more than it should when standing, the ligament and tendon stretch excessively, irritating them. The more you walk or exercise, the more they get irritated. When you sit down, rest or sleep, inflammation builds up. Inflammation is your body’s way of healing an irritated area. So when you first step down, it’s really painful. After you walk a few steps, the pain may ease a bit, as you’re pumping the inflammation out of there. But the more you walk and irritate the tendon or ligament, the more it hurts. It’s a painful cycle.
Physical therapy is very effective in reducing inflammation with techniques such as therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and iontophoresis (utilizing ultrasound to help cortisone (a medication to reduce inflammation) penetrate deep into the tissues. Ultrasound is found to attract cells to the site of the injury which can speed the healing process. Ultrasound has also been found to produce more collagen at the site where the ultrasound is used. This collagen production is a key component in soft tissue production and healing.
Physical therapists also use electrical stimulation to strengthen affected muscles. Using electrodes on the skin, the therapist can stimulate the damaged tissue, causing the muscles to contract and force these muscles to engage, which assists in healing.
Physical therapists can also guide patients through valuable strength training exercises for the feet and ankles. Improving the strength in your ankles and legs can improve stability. Along with strength training exercises, therapists will also help patients with range of motion exercises. Strength training and range of motion exercises will help patients use their foot and ankle in a more stable way as the foot and ankle continues to heal.