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Bunion? Hammer toe? Ingrown toenail? What’s causing my foot pain?

Does foot pain dominate your day-to-day life? Whether you’re on your feet all day at work, put in a lot of miles on hard surfaces, or are feeling the consequences of unforgiving shoe styles, you don’t have to live with foot pain! Bunions, hammer toe, and ingrown toenails are three common causes of foot pain that can be addressed, often with non-surgical solutions. Learn more about causes, prevention and treatment options for all three.

Bunions

What causes bunions?

A bunion is a bony bump that develops slowly at the base of your big toe due to inward pressure on your toe joint, or arthritis. Bunions are very common – especially among women. In fact, almost one fourth of adults (age 18-65) have bunions. That number goes up to more than one third if you’re over 65.

Pressure pushes the top of your big toe toward your other toes, which in turn pushes the base of your toe outward, eventually causing a bump. Over time this bump – and the pain that comes with it – tend to get more extreme. 

How are bunions treated?

Typically, your orthopedic specialist will recommend non-surgical options first. These include adding padding or inserts to your shoes to reduce the pressure and changing the types of shoes that you wear to an option that doesn’t put pressure on your toes. Other non-surgical options include taking an anti-inflammatory medication.

When surgery is needed: When your bunion pain is too great to walk or wear shoes and other treatments are not helping enough, your doctor may recommend bunion surgery. Surgical methods may vary depending on your bunion, but generally serve to realign the joint and bring the big toe back to its intended position. Surgery is typically done on an outpatient basis.

Hammer toe

While bunions involve the big toe or baby toe (called a bunionette), hammer toe impacts any of the middle three toes. As the name implies, the toe takes the shape of a hammer as it bends at the middle joint. Poor fitting shoes, paired with other factors, are often the culprit in hammer toe cases too. Pressure forces the toe into a bent position and over time the muscles cannot straighten.

What’s the best treatment for hammer toe?

It’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment of a hammer toe, because they are more easily corrected when not severe. When left untreated, they are more likely to become rigid and require surgery. Treatment again starts with wearing shoes that better fit your forefoot.  Avoiding narrow shoes, and especially high heels with narrow toe boxes is especially important. 

There’s also physical therapy for your toes! This includes stretches and even exercises that strengthen your toes to allow them to return to their intended resting position. You can practice picking things (like a marble) up off the floor or use your toes to scrunch a cloth or towel. There are also a variety of pads and cushions that might help relieve your symptoms too.

If exercise and shoe changes do not help, surgery can be performed to straighten the joint. This is also an outpatient procedure with a fairly short recovery.

Ingrown toenail

Ingrown toenails – a condition where skin grows over the side of the nail or the nail begins to grow into the skin – often cause swelling and pain. It’s most commonly seen on the big toe.  You can prevent ingrown toenails or at least minimize their likelihood by being careful not to cut your nails too short and avoiding rounding their shape at the corners. Trauma, or shoes that are too short or too tight can also contribute to ingrown toenails. 

Ingrown toenail treatment

Because they are painful, people typically want to treat them quickly. This is also a good idea to avoid infection and the need for further treatment. You can soak your foot in warm water to ease the pain but be sure the foot is clean and dry at other times. Again (surprise!) wear comfortable shoes, or even sandals. If you can (gently) separate the toenail from the skin, you can use a bit of cotton swap or dental floss to create some separation while it heals.  Make sure you change this wrapping out daily and keep it clean to avoid infection.

If you have considerable swelling, pain or puss, an infection is likely, and you should see a doctor. They can either partially or fully remove the nail and prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

Whether one of these three foot conditions matches up with your symptoms or not, taking great care of your feet should always be a priority.  If you have chronic foot pain that’s impacting your ability to work, walk or exercise, it may be time to see a podiatric specialist. Schedule a time to come see us (in roomy comfortable shoes, of course)!

Dr. Fred Hainge is one of CCOE’s board-certified podiatric surgeons specializing in foot and ankle conditions.

Foot Care for Arthritis Tips

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. When our joints become inflamed, it can cause pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness.

Arthritis in the feet and ankles can be especially painful and bothersome, affecting how we walk and function on a daily basis. While there are many different types of arthritis, there are three types that most often cause foot and ankle pain.

These types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (known as just “arthritis,” or wear-and-tear/aging arthritis), rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), and post-traumatic arthritis (caused by an injury or fracture).

How Arthritis Affects the Feet and Ankles

Our feet each have more than 30 joints – many of them are tiny. The joints in our feet that are most commonly affected by arthritis are:

  • The joint where the ankle and shin bone meet
  • The joint where the big toe meets the foot bone
  • The joints connecting to the heel bone, inner mid-foot bone, and outer mid-foot bone

Symptoms of foot and ankle arthritis can include trouble walking or weight-bearing.

Ways to Care for Your Feet

If you’ve been diagnosed with foot and ankle arthritis, there are several treatment options available. Let’s talk about these different options and what they entail.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Foot Arthritis

Your doctor may try several things before deciding on surgery. Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Steroids injected into the joint
  • Anti-inflammatories and pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight control
  • Joint-supporting canes
  • Foot/ankle braces
  • Arch supports
  • Orthotics

Your physician may even recommend a combination of those treatments to see what works best for you.

Custom Shoes

Perhaps the most important way to care for your feet and ankles if you have arthritis is to wear shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and properly sized for your feet. When searching, you should ensure that the shoes you buy:

  • Have good heel counter and arch support
  • Have extra cushioning in the mid-soles and outer-soles
  • Have nonslip outsoles
  • Are flexible
  • Can be worn with padded socks (without feeling too tight)
  • Have rubber soles
  • Are shaped like your feet
  • Are not slip-ons or high heels 

Exercise

If you’re suffering from foot and ankle osteoarthritis, the last thing you may want to hear is that you should exercise. However, believe it or not, exercise can help relieve pain in your feet.

Exercise can also help keep your feet and ankles strong and flexible. Your orthopedist or physical therapist can show you exercises that can help with your foot and ankle arthritis, such as big-toe stretches, toe pulls, toe curls, and Achilles stretches.

Self-Care

When it comes to your body, no one knows it better than you do. As such, there are self-care steps you can do to help keep your feet healthy in order to control your foot and ankle arthritis, including:

  • Daily foot inspections
  • Daily foot washes with lukewarm water (be sure to completely dry off your feet afterward)
  • Avoiding exposure by always wearing shoes
  • Not cutting your own toenails
  • Not cutting or filing corns, calluses, or other foot protrusions
  • Not using harsh chemicals on your feet (such as wart removers)
  • Staying active to maintain good circulation

Surgery

If other treatment methods have not proven effective to treat your foot and ankle arthritis, your orthopedist may recommend surgery.

This can include fusion surgery, which involves fusing bones together using screws, pins, rods, and/or plates. Another type of surgery is joint replacement surgery, which involves replacing all or part of the arthritic joint with an artificial implant (prosthesis).

Orthopedists in Colorado Springs

Is your foot arthritis getting you down? The board-certified doctors at Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence are here to help you care for your arthritis and any orthopedic issues you may have. We pride ourselves in providing the best care possible and delivering that care with compassion and respect.

Call us today at (719) 623-1050 to request a consultation, or use our online appointment request form right now. We look forward to helping you live a more active lifestyle with less pain, so you can get back to the life you love.

Podiatrist vs. Orthopedist

When you have a problem with your foot or ankle that needs medical attention, where do you go – to a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon? And does it make a difference?

To answer those questions, let’s first look at what each of these specialists do.

A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM), specifically a specialist whose focus is strictly on foot and ankle care. That includes treatment of such conditions as:

·       Bunions

·       Toe and hindfoot fractures

·       Diabetic ulcers and wounds

·       Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of connective tissue on the bottom of the foot)

·       Hallux rigidus (stiff big toe)

·       Flat feet

·       Gout

·       Toenail disease

·       Heel spurs

·       Athlete’s foot

·       Corns

An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor (MD), specifically a specialist whose focus is on the care of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves throughout the body – including in the foot and ankle. In regard to the latter, that includes treatment of such conditions as:

·       Achilles tendon tear and repair

·       Ankle replacement and cartilage restoration

·       Bunions

·       Flat feet

·       Plantar fasciitis

·       Heel spurs

·       Morton’s neuroma (nerve inflammation near the toes)

·       Hammer toe, mallet toe, and claw toe deformities

·       Stress fractures

·       Toe fractures

·       Hindfoot fractures

·       Metatarsal (forefoot fracture)

As you can see, both podiatrists and orthopedists perform many of the same foot and ankle procedures. Both are highly trained and qualified to treat foot and ankle conditions both surgically and non-surgically. The only discernible difference between them is that an orthopedist manages parts of the foot and ankle that pertain to the bones, soft tissues and joints, while a podiatrist manages the same areas, but also the biomechanics and dermatology of the foot and ankle. For instance, a podiatrist is often an integral care provider for people with diabetes who have serious concerns about foot health.

So, who do you choose for diagnosis and treatment of your foot or ankle problem?

It often depends on your particular foot or ankle problem – and how comfortable you are with one doctor over another. But it’s a dilemma you don’t have to face at Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs. That’s because our practice specializes in both podiatry and foot and ankle orthopedics.

Our board-certified podiatric surgeon Dr. Frederick Hainge is highly skilled in diagnosing and treating structural and biomechanical issues, wounds, toe and foot deformities, nerve pain, and much more.

Meanwhile, fellowship-trained Dr. John Shank and our team of orthopedic physicians help patients manage their foot and ankle conditions through reconstructive procedures, arthroscopic and open fusion surgeries, physical therapy, and other procedures. And it’s all done under one roof.

The Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs regularly treats injuries to bones and joints, providing the best of care. If a foot or ankle injury or pain is cause for concern, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons will quickly diagnose and treat the condition. Call us at (719) 623-1050 today for an appointment.