Posts for: December, 2014
Keep Your Feet Safe at the Gym in the New Year
Don’t let foot injuries keep you from your fitness resolutions
(Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg, VA, 12/29/2014) -- In the New Year, don’t forget to keep your feet in tip-top shape while following through with your resolutions to get fit. Northern Virginian foot and ankle surgeon Steven Gordon, DPM, FACFAS, offers tips for foot safety while at the gym.
Start new workouts gradually— Increase your stamina and the length of your workouts gradually to avoid overuse injuries such as stress fractures or tendon strains and sprains. Stretching your muscles before and after workouts also helps prevent these types of injuries. “If you do feel you’ve sprained your ankle, be sure to seek treatment right away,” Dr. Gordon, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons explains. “Untreated or repeated ankle sprains may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition that causes persistent pain and a ‘giving way’ of the ankle.”
Wear the right shoe and sock—Wear well-fitting athletic shoes designed for the exercise or sport. According to Dr. Gordon, shoes that don’t support the arch of the foot and provide cushion for the heel can cause heel pain (plantar fasciitis). Shoes that are too small can also cause a neuroma or a thickening of the nerve tissue, in the foot and may require injections, medication or physical therapy. Wearing cotton or non-slip socks are also key to help avoid painful blisters, which can become infected and cause more serious issues.
Use good technique— Improper exercise techniques can result in injury to the tendons or ligaments in your feet and ankles. “Incorrect posture or misuse of exercise equipment can cause decreased stabilization in the foot and ankle, leading to joint sprains and muscle strains,” Dr. Gordonsays.
Protect yourself from bacteria—Sweaty shoes, public showers, exercise equipment and the pool deck at the gym are breeding grounds for fungus, viruses and bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which has become increasingly more common. Never go barefoot while in public areas; water shoes can provide a great barrier between your feet and the wet surfaces. “It’s also best to cover cuts and cracks in the skin or ingrown toenails since these minor tears in the skin’s surface can act as entry points for bacteria. If you have a cut or scrape that becomes red or swollen and is not healing in a timely manner, don’t hesitate to see a foot and ankle surgeon for an examination,” Dr. Gordon says.
Above all, it’s important to listen to your body. If you experience an injury or pain, call Dr.Gordon’s office at (703)437-6333 for the Reston office, (703)368-7166 for the Manassas office, and (703)777-2101 for the Leesburg office for an evaluation.
Many of the estimated 70 million obese Americans are trapped in a life-threatening vicious cycle: Obesity aggravates foot problems, like heel pain and flat feet; sore feet make it hard to exercise and lose weight; and without exercise, obesity worsens and exacerbates progression of diabetes, heart disease and other serious health threats. Today, a Northern Virginia foot and ankle surgeon urged obese adults to seek immediate treatment for chronic, activity-limiting foot and ankle problems to foster compliance with physician-directed exercise programs.
“It’s unfortunate obese adults get caught up in the vicious cycle of avoiding physical activity due to foot or ankle pain, thereby permitting cardiovascular disease and other life-threatening conditions to worsen as a result,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, FACFAS, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) in Northern Virginia. “For example, in many cases, chronic heel pain occurs from carrying too much weight. Left untreated, it becomes an impediment to physical activity and meaningful weight loss.”
Dr. Gordon says there’s no reason foot or ankle pain should stop obese patients from exercising. The first step toward breaking that vicious cycle is an evaluation by a foot and ankle surgeon.
According to the ACFAS consumer Web site, FootHealthFacts.org, many causes of foot pain can be relieved without surgery through stretching exercises, orthotics and athletic shoes with good shock absorption and support. If a bunion, heel pain or other condition requires surgery, patients can participate during their recovery in non-weight-bearing activities, such as riding a stationary bike, swimming or weight training.
For those moderately to severely overweight, Dr. Gordon says a thorough physical examination is mandatory before beginning an exercise program.
“Once cleared by your physician to begin exercising, don’t try to do too much too soon. Follow a gradual routine until your body adjusts to the stress of regular physical activity,” he says. “For example, I counsel overweight patients to avoid working out on treadmills or elliptical machines to minimize pounding and stress on their joints.”
Shedding excess pounds helps diabetic patients control their disease, but Dr. Gordon notes many who experience foot ulcerations and vascular problems caused by diabetes might think they shouldn’t exercise.
“Every diabetes patient needs regular foot exams to check for possible sore spots and assess nerve sensation,” says Dr. Gordon “And with proper diabetic foot care and the right footwear, most patients can follow an exercise regimen that is safe and appropriate for them.”
For more information about ankle fractures and sprains or other foot and ankle problems, contact Dr. Gordan's office at (703) 368-7166, or go to FootHealthFacts.org.
Ingrown toenails occur when the toenails physically start to grow into your skin. This can cause pain and discomfort, especially each time you put on your shoes. These toenails occur if you trim your toenails by tapering the corners, which can cause them to grow into your toe. Wearing shoes that are too tight can also contribute to an ingrown toenail. Also, some people simply have toenails that are too large for their toes.
Ingrown toenails should be avoided whenever possible because they cause pain and can contribute to chronic skin infections.
To protect yourself against ingrown toenails, cut your toenails straight across instead of curving the toenail’s shape. Doing so can prevent the toenail from growing into the nail bed. If you have a medical condition that affects your foot’s circulation, such as diabetes, you may wish to come to our Reston podiatrist’s office to have your toenails professionally trimmed.
In addition to avoiding trimming your toenails in a curved fashion, you should also avoid cutting your toenails too short. Doing so can prevent your growing toenails from embedding into the nail bed.
Avoid wearing highly pointed shoes or shoes that are too tight. Ill-fitting shoes will squeeze your feet and can lead to ingrown toenails. You can also tell the salesperson at the shoe store you frequent that you have a foot problem to ensure you are buying the right shoes to prevent ingrown toenails.
Note that if you do experience an ingrown toenail, don’t try to remove the ingrown portion from the nail bed by yourself. Doing so could do more harm than good. Instead, rely on professionals like our Reston podiatrists to remove the ingrown toenail portion.
If you have an ingrown toenail causing you pain and discomfort, make an appointment at our Reston podiatrist’s office by calling (703) 437-6333.
Pro Athletes Not the Only Ones at Risk for Achilles Tendon Problems
You don’t have to be an accomplished athlete to suffer Achilles tendon injuries. They can happen from household tasks like climbing a ladder.
A Northern Virginia foot and ankle surgeon says Achilles tendon weakness is common in adults. But seeking treatment when symptoms occur can prevent more serious injury.
“Achilles tendonitis is common for anyone whose work routine puts constant stress on the feet and ankles,” says Steven A. Gordon DPM, FACFAS, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) with offices in Reston, Manassas and Leesburg “Achilles tendon injuries happen most often to less conditioned, ‘weekend warrior’ athletes who overdo it. But I’ve also had patients who have ruptured the tendon simply by climbing a ladder quickly.”
The Achilles tendon is the longest and strongest tendon in the body. It is subjected to considerable wear and tear. “When the tendon becomes inflamed from overuse, or sudden stress, tendonitis can weaken it over time and cause microscopic tears.
Dr. Gordon says people risk further deterioration and possible rupture when they don't seek medical care for Achilles tendon injuries. The main symptoms of Achilles tendonitis are pain, stiffness and tenderness. Pain occurs in the morning, improves with motion, but gets worse with increasing stress and activity.
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons’ consumer Web site, FootHealthFacts.org, treatments can include:
Casting to immobilize the Achilles tendon and promote healing
Ice to reduce swelling
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation
Physical therapy to strengthen the tendon
Surgery, if other approaches fail to restore the tendon to its normal condition
Dr. Gordon says the major causes of Achilles tendon injuries involve jumping and running.
“In sports like basketball and tennis, muscles and tendons in the back of the leg are prone to injury from an imbalance that occurs from a lot of forward motion," He says. "As a result, the frontal imbalance can weaken the tendon unless stretching exercises are performed regularly.”
He says the best way to prevent Achilles tendon injuries is to warm up gradually by walking and stretching. Avoid strenuous sprinting or hill running if you are not in shape for it.
If you have symptoms of Achilles tendonitis, contact Dr. Gordon's office at (703) 368-7166. For more on Achilles tendon problems, visit FootHealthFacts.org.
Five myths about foot care
From bunions to broken toes, local foot and ankle surgeon has heard it all
(Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg, VA – 12/5/14) “Don’t cross your eyes, they’ll stay that way!”
Old wives’ tales and myths like that example are fun to laugh at. We believed them as children. “Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back.” But there are other myths that are no laughing matter, especially when they involve your health.
From bunions to broken toes, foot and ankle surgeon Shaun Hafner, DPM, FACFAS, has heard it all. Dr. Hafner treats patients at offices in Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg, VA. He shares five myths about foot care and the realities behind them.
Myth: Cutting a notch (a “V”) in a toenail will relieve the pain of ingrown toenails.
Reality: When a toenail is ingrown, the nail curves downward and grows into the skin. Cutting a “V” in the toenail does not affect its growth. New nail growth will continue to curve downward. Cutting a “V” may actually cause more problems and is painful in many cases.
Myth: My foot or ankle can’t be broken if I can walk on it.
Reality: It’s entirely possible to walk on a foot or ankle with a broken bone. “It depends on your threshold for pain, as well as the severity of the injury,” says Dr. Hafner. But it’s not a smart idea. Walking with a broken bone can cause further damage. It is crucial to stay off an injured foot until diagnosis by a foot and ankle surgeon. Until then, apply ice and elevate the foot to reduce pain.
Myth: Shoes cause bunions.
Reality: Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types make a person prone to developing a bunion. While wearing shoes that crowd the toes together can, over time, make bunions more painful, shoes themselves do not cause bunions. Although some treatments can ease the pain of bunions, only surgery can correct the deformity.
Myth: A doctor can’t fix a broken toe.
Reality: Nineteen of the 26 bones in the foot are toe bones. “What I tell patients is, there are things we can do to make a broken toe heal better and prevent problems later on, like arthritis or toe deformities,” Dr. Hafner says. Broken toes that aren’t treated correctly can also make walking and wearing shoes difficult. A foot and ankle surgeon will x-ray the toe to learn more about the fracture. If the broken toe is out of alignment, the surgeon may have to insert a pin, screw or plate to reposition the bone.
Myth: Corns have roots.
Reality: A corn is a small build-up of skin caused by friction. Dr. Hafner says many corns result from a hammertoe deformity, where the toe knuckle rubs against the shoe. The only way to eliminate these corns is to surgically correct the hammertoe condition. Unlike a callus, a corn has a central core of hard material. But corns do not have roots. Attempting to cut off a corn or applying medicated corn pads can lead to serious infection or even amputation. A foot and ankle surgeon can safely evaluate and treat corns and the conditions contributing to them.