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Monday, 10 February 2020 00:00

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also help mend existing foot problems and prevent future ones.

The feet, as the body’s foundation, carry the body’s entire weight and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are often common concerns. Foot pain and foot problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits. It is always a good idea, however, to first rule out any serious medical issues with a physician.

Stretching can help relax the feet and alleviate pain, but is especially important before heavy aerobic exercise. Stretching before such activities can help you avoid experiencing painful cramps or strained foot muscles. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds before relaxing.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard; just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing and facing a wall with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel a stretching sensation, and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regularly stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Monday, 03 February 2020 00:00

An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grows into the skin.  This typically occurs at the nail borders, or the sides of the nail.  As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe.  If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.

Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing.  In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited.  The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over.  An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running.  Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.

Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition.  Milder cases that don’t involve infection or other medical conditions can benefit from soaking the feet in room-temperature water and gently massaging the side of the nail.  In most cases, however, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment.  After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present.  Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered.  In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required.  Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.

Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes.  When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short.  Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.

Monday, 27 January 2020 00:00

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. This restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives. This leads to degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as the damaging or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.

The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.

Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, etc. Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age, over 50, can also increase risk.

If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely. This will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc., can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.

Monday, 20 January 2020 00:00

Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity.  Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.

Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.

Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.

For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.

If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.

Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.  

Monday, 13 January 2020 00:00

Sports Related Foot and Ankle Injuries

Foot and ankle injuries are common among athletes and those who exercise frequently. Most of these injuries are non-life-threatening and can heal in weeks with proper treatment and care. Serious injuries, however, require urgent medical treatment.

Common minor injuries include ankle sprains, ankle strains, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and turf toe. An ankle sprain is when the ligaments in the ankle have either become stretched or torn. When the muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, it is an ankle strain. When the big toe is sprained, it is known as turf toe. Achilles tendonitis is the overuse and inflammation of the Achilles tendon. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia and generally occurs from overuse in athletics. Stress fractures are also caused from overuse and are small cracks in the bone.

Achilles tendon ruptures are common, but more serious. This injury occurs when the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, ruptures. In most cases, this causes severe pain and difficulty walking; some who have experienced this injury have reported, however, no signs or symptoms. A laceration is a deep cut that can occur anywhere on the body. Lacerations on the foot are rarer, but can occur from things like metal cleats landing on the foot.   

Treatment options cover a wide range of methods based upon the injury and its severity. Conditions like plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, turf toe and ankle sprains/ strains can heal on their own without immediate medical care, but seeing a podiatrist to monitor the injury is always recommended. Following the RICE (Rest, Icing, Compression, and Elevation) protocol is generally enough to treat minor injuries. This means resting the foot by either keeping pressure off the foot or not walking at all. Icing the injury will help reduce swelling and pain. Compressing the wound with a wrap will immobilize and help promote healing. Finally, keeping the wound elevated will also reduce swelling and also help the healing process.

It is important to note that even minor injuries can vary in severity, with grade one being a minor injury and grade three requiring urgent care by a podiatrist. Achilles tendon ruptures and lacerations on the foot generally require urgent medical care and treatment options that need a podiatrist. These could include imaging tests, stitches for cuts, rehabilitation, and casts or braces. Every case is different, however, so it is always recommended to see a podiatrist when pain in the foot does not disappear.

Monday, 06 January 2020 00:00

A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body.  In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes.  The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.

Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve.  A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes.  Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas.  Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.

Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up.  Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot.  An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.

Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition.  For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed.  Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition.  The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.

Monday, 16 December 2019 00:00

One out of ten broken bones is reported to be in the feet. When an object crushes, bends, or stretches the bone beyond acceptable ranges, bones break. A break in the foot is either a fracture or a straight break.

The location of any break can tell you how the break happened. Toes, for instance, break typically as a result of something being kicked hard and with great force. Heel breaks almost always are a result of an improper landing from a tall height. Twists or sprains are the other two frequent occurrences. As with all usual breaks, they result from unexpected accident or sudden injury. As with stress fractures, breaks form as a process over time from repeated stress on already present cracks. Runners, dancers, and gymnasts are the usual athletes who receive this type of break. Stress fractures result from incredible pressure on the feet. It is no surprise these athletes bear the majority of reported fractures.

Pain, swelling, bruising, and redness are all indicative of the typical symptoms from a broken foot. Severe pain—to the point of not being able to walk—usually depends on the location of the break in the foot. Toes are on the lower scale of pain threshold, but heels are high, as are a few other particular bones. As the severity of the broken foot increases, symptoms like blueness, numbness, misshaping of the foot, cuts, or deformities will become apparent. These symptoms indicate the need to see a medical professional with access to an x-ray facility.

Prior to seeing a specialist, precautions should be taken to reduce pain and swelling. Elevate and stabilize the foot, and refrain from moving it. Immobilization of the foot is the next priority, so creating a homemade splint is acceptable. Keep in mind that while creating a splint, any increase of pain or cutting off blood circulation means that the splint should be removed immediately. Use ice to decrease swelling and relieve pain symptoms.

When dealing with a medical center, the patient should note that the treatment can vary. The treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture and the cause of the break. Crutches, splits, or casts are common treatments while surgery has been known to be used in more severe cases in order to repair the break in the bones. 

Monday, 09 December 2019 00:00

It is no secret that high heels are uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. Although beauty is pain, you should not sacrifice the health of your feet for a stylish heel. Wearing high heels can potentially cause many different foot conditions that may be avoided by wearing proper footwear.

The structure of high heels forces weight of your body to get shifted forward toward the ball of the foot. The higher the heel you wear, the more weight and pressure get shifted forward. The pressure that your toes may experience from wearing heels may lead to hammer toes, bunions, and ingrown toenails. Extra weight and pressure resulting from wearing heels may cause stress fractures. Furthermore, heels may cause pinched nerves which may result in Morton’s neuroma.

High heels are even more dangerous for people who are clumsy. Falling or tripping while wearing heels can cause an ankle sprain or twist.

What many people don’t know is that heels can also cause back and knee problems. In order for your body to stay balanced on heels, your spine has to sway unnaturally, which adds stress to your spine muscles. This may cause you to experience a sore lower back.  

If you decide to wear high heels regardless of the risks associated with them, there are ways you can minimize their harmful effects. One way to reduce injury is to massage and stretch your legs at the end of the day. Stretching can prevent the Achilles tendons and calf muscles from becoming too tight. If you are simply looking for more height, wedges and platforms provide a better surface area to distribute the body weight across compared to thinner heels.

If you experience pain from wearing high heels, it is important to see a podiatrist before any of your symptoms become worse.

Wednesday, 04 December 2019 00:00

While not a serious issue, toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable condition to experience. Toenail fungus is often caused from public areas that harbor fungi and improper cleaning/drying of the foot. Once infected, the fungus grows deeper into the nail and can be very hard to get rid of.

There are different types of fungus that cause toenail fungus. Dermatophytes, yeasts, and molds are the most frequent forms of fungus to infect the toenail. Dermatophytes are the most common among the three. Symptoms associated with fungal nails include the discoloration of the toenail, brittleness, and in some circumstances, a smell. Pain is rarely a symptom caused by toenail fungus.

Diagnosis of fungal nails is generally a rather quick process. However podiatrists will make sure that the cause is not another condition such as lichen planus, psoriasis, onychogryphosis, or nail damage. Podiatrists will make use of fungal cultures and microscopy to verify that it is fungus.

While over-the-counter ointments are readily available, most are ineffective. This is due to the fact that the nail is very protective and that the fungus slips in between the nail plate and bed. Podiatrists can offer oral medication which currently provides the best results.

Ultimately, prevention is the best line of defense against toenail fungus. Avoid unsanitary public showers. If you do use a public shower, use shower shoes to provide your foot with protection. Once you are finished showering, make sure to thoroughly dry your feet. Fungi thrive in warm, dark, and moist places like sweaty, warm feet that are left dark in shoes all day.

Monday, 25 November 2019 00:00

The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches across the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue becomes inflamed, causing heel pain and discomfort during physical activity. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start becoming effective.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by a number of everyday activities, so understanding the condition is important for managing and treating it. One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is excessive running, especially with improper fitting or non-supportive shoes. Too much exercise can lead to the plantar fascia being overworked and overstretched, which can cause tears in the tissue. Along with improper fitting shoes, pronation, the rolling of the feet inward, is a common cause of plantar fasciitis. If not treated properly, the plantar fascia becomes overstretched and starts to tear, causing inflammation.

Despite the common causes of plantar fasciitis, there are many different treatment options. For less severe cases, conservative home remedies include taking anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain, applying ice packs to the bottom of your foot and heel, slowly stretching and exercising your feet to re-strengthen the tissue, and using orthotic devices are all ways to help manage your plantar fasciitis.

For more severe cases, shockwave therapy has become a common solution for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy can effectively break up the tissue on the bottom of your foot which facilitates healing and regeneration. This fights the chronic pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Even if this doesn’t work, surgery is always a final option. Surgery on the tissue itself can be done to permanently correct the issue and stop the inflammation and pain in your heels.

No matter what the case may be, consulting your podiatrist is the first and best step to recovery. Even the slightest amount of heel pain could be the first stage of plantar fasciitis. Untreated symptoms can lead to the tearing and overstretching of tissue. Because the tearing of tissue can be compounded if it remains ignored, it can evolve into a severe case. The solution is early detection and early treatment. Talk to your podiatrist about the possibilities of plantar fasciitis if you’re experiencing heel pain.

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