Our Podiatrist in Marquette, Munising, Upper Peninsula, MI specializes in biomechanical analysis


 

SPORTS FOOT & ANKLE INJURIES

PODIATRISTS & SPORTS-RELATED INJURIES

Whether you are a professional athlete or play sports just for fun, the demands made on your feet and lower limbs can lead to a range of injuries, including blisters, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, shin splints (leg pain), knee pain, low back pain and other joint or muscle problems. Added to these are common complaints such as corns, calluses and Athlete’s foot. Your running style, poor footwear and even minor limb length differences can also contribute to sports injury.

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Visiting a podiatrist like Dr. Conway McLean should be your fist step towards getting back on your feet after a sports injury. Dr. McLean can not only help treat your current foot or ankle pain, but provide you with helpful tips to prevent future sports injuries.

Here are some tips for athletic foot care:

  • Wash your feet every day, and dry thoroughly.
  • Wear only good-quality, well-fitting cotton socks.
  • Always use the correct shoe for each sport and surface.
  • Get in shape. Being overweight or out of shape places added stress on the feet. Condition yourself gradually with stretching exercises for 15-20 minutes before starting and after any activity (“warm-up” and “warm-down”).
  • Wear correct shoes. Footwear should be given the same consideration as any other piece of sporting equipment. Sports shoes should protect as much as possible, be durable, and should be right for the sport and surface. If running, the shoe should have adequate cushioning in the mid-sole and a flared heel for stability.
 

 

CUSTOM ORTHOTICS

Have you ever taken the time to consider the wonders of the human body? Such a marvelous piece of bio-engineering, the heart beating, the blood flowing. Obviously, there are differences, person to person, in this incredibly complex organism. We all have our own distinctive appearance, and these differences extend to our skeletal structure, in how our internal “frame” is shaped and put together. Some people are taller, while others shorter, and others stockier. These variations certainly extend to the process of standing and walking. It is not a simple a process, requiring the interaction of so many bones and ligaments, muscles and tendons.

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Due to the complexity of this process, and the duration over which this “simple” act occurs (truly a lifetime), a variety of problems can develop. One of the most common are variations in how some of the many structures that compose the human foot are working. Any small deviation from optimal positioning will lead to changes in “biomechanics”, in other words, function. Biomechanics is a rather broad term describing the changes that occur to the musculoskeletal system during stance and gait (ie standing and walking!).

One aspect of biomechanics which has been the subject of much study is that of arch function. How high is the arch of one’s foot, and how much does it lower during each step. A deviation from normal of any significance will usually cause problems eventually, with sufficient time. Indeed, time is a key element in this discussion, with sometimes many decades required for some small abnormality in alignment to lead to a painful problem. Perhaps some joint moves too far, or some structure is over-stressed and pulled on repeatedly, leading to inflammation. This is the ultimate source of a great many painful conditions.

The body parts most susceptible to this type of “malfunction” include those of the foot, ankle, leg, pelvis and back. Chronic joint pain below the ankle is a common consequence. Low back pain is another. Many actual deformities develop from this type of problem. For example, an arch which falls excessively will lead to an alteration in the actions of some of the tendons and ligaments that run out to the toes. In time, this imbalance in the pulling action of some tendons leads to a permanently bent toe, aka a hammer toe. A similar situation may lead to the development of a bunion deformity. Most cases of heel pain have, at their root, a problem with lower extremity mechanical function.

It is no longer sufficient to simply correct the altered architecture which has developed over the years, although this is now an easier process than it used to be. We can now straighten a hammer toe with much less pain and disability. Through a couple of tiny incisions, this type of common deformity can be corrected. Often a stitch is not even necessary since the incision is so small. But this should be only part of the treatment. The biomechanical malfunction which lead to the bent toe remains.

The same holds true when a bunion is corrected. This is a large bump on the inner side of the front of the foot, at the base of the big toe. It too is usually the result of abnormal architecture (which is primarily a function of genetics, of course). When possible, the big toe can be straightened and the bump removed through several small openings. But this alone, although producing a nicely shaped foot, is not the end of a thorough and complete treatment program.
Abnormal foot mechanics can be treated in many ways, including gait training programs, shoe change, and others. Still, the most influential and powerful way to improve lower extremity function is with a prescription, customized device placed into one’s shoes. Termed “foot orthotics”, they can be prescribed to alter heel movement, arch motion, as well removing pressure from bony prominences. In effect, they bring the ground up to the foot, rather than gravity forcing the foot down to the ground.

After surgical correction, the aforementioned bunion deformity is apt to redevelop over time if the root cause, bad foot mechanics, is not treated. Unfortunately, the prescribing of orthotics for the feet is an extremely complex process. The patient’s gait should be analyzed, how they stand, and the positioning of each region of the foot observed and measured relative to all the other parts. These and other aspects of a proper biomechanical exam should be integral to the process. Over 28 steps are involved in prescribing a pair, and when one component of the process is not performed accurately, the device will either not be comfortable, or will not operate appropriately. This is an extremely common scenario: someone with a problem best treated by improving lower extremity biomechanics, receives a pair of orthotics from a health care provider, and finds them unwearable. This does not mean orthotics are not the best solution, but only that pair were not properly prescribed. Still, some people have foot and leg mechanics which are only a little “off”, and an over-the-counter device may be sufficient.

Whether it be heel pain, low back problem, or bent toes, these and many other musculoskeletal conditions can be treated, and improved, with a great variety of treatment options. These may include such methods as physical therapy, injection techniques, bracing, as well as many other options. But frequently the root of the problem is an individual’s foot architecture causing abnormal function. If a change in shoe gear and over-the-counter supports don’t provide sufficient relief, it’s possible a pair of prescription foot supports, known as foot orthotics, may the best way to treat the root of the problem.

Dr. Conway McLean utilizes the same methods for fitting and prescribing of orthotics as the recognized experts in the field of biomechanics. He takes special care, each and every time, to ensure the best possible therapeutic outcomes, as well as the best fit. This means that the foot orthotics prescribed for you at Superior Foot and Ankle Centers will be the most comfortable supports you can imagine. Contact our podiatry team for a complete evalutation.