Dr. Beavers is an orthopedic surgery doctor serving the DFW metroplex. If you are having pain in a joint, torn or sprained a ligament, or have broken a bone contact his office for a consultation.
Foot and ankle pain is high among the most common musculoskeletal problems.
Although this issue affects people of all ages and from all walks of life, three groups of people are at especially high risk: the elderly, the very active, and the overweight.
Because of the prevalence of foot and ankle pain, injuries, and other problems, orthopedic surgeons that specialize in foot and ankle surgery are highly sought after.
Recommended Dallas-Fort Worth Foot and Ankle Doctors
What Is Foot and Ankle Surgery?
Foot and ankle surgery include any types of surgery that involve the feet or ankles.
It also includes the diagnosis and prevention of such disorders, as well as rehabilitation after surgery or another treatment.
Foot and ankle surgery are performed by an orthopedic or podiatric surgeon.
Difference Between Podiatric and Orthopedic Surgeon
You have two options when it comes to foot and ankle surgery: a podiatric or orthopedic surgeon.
A podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.). This means that they specifically studied the foot, ankle, and lower leg, including multiple years of foot and ankle surgical training.
An orthopedic surgeon is a Doctor of Medical Science (M.D. or D.O.). This means that they studied the entire musculoskeletal system, not only the foot, ankle, and lower leg.
While there are many general practice orthopedics, others specialize in a specific area, such as foot and ankle surgery.
Although a podiatrist focuses specifically on foot and ankle problems, this intense focus is actually one of their major shortcomings.
Because many foot and ankle problems originate from areas other than the feet and ankles (such as the knees, hips, spine, and shoulders), an orthopedic surgeon’s overall musculoskeletal knowledge enables them to develop more comprehensive treatment.
This overall knowledge of the musculoskeletal system also helps an orthopedic surgeon diagnose and treat problems that affect other parts of your body in addition to your feet and ankles (such as arthritis).
Causes of Foot and Ankle Problems
A huge number of factors can cause foot and ankle problems.
While many problems stem from injuries to the feet or ankles themselves, other problems arise from issues in completely different parts of the body.
In fact, problems with the spine, shoulders, knees, and hips are among the largest contributors to foot and ankle pain.
Although there are far too many causes to list them all, here are a few main causes of foot and ankle pain:
- Impact Injury – An impact is a common cause of sprains, strains, fractures, and similar foot and ankle injuries.
- Repetitive Stress – An injury caused by repetitive movements (such as long-distance running) placing stress on the foot and ankle.
- Weight/Posture – Those that are overweight, as well as those with bad posture, have a higher chance of foot and ankle injuries.
- Disease/Disorder – Certain naturally-developing disorders, like arthritis or diabetes, can cause foot and ankle problems.
- Spine Problems – Pain in the spine, neck, and lower back quickly translates into foot and ankle pain.
An orthopedic surgeon will help pinpoint the cause of your foot and ankle pain.
Common Foot and Ankle Problems
Orthopedic doctors encounter a huge variety of foot and ankle problems, including:
- Bunions – Painful bump on big toe.
- Morton’s Neuroma – Thick tissue over nerves, causing sharp pain and numbness.
- Achilles Tendonitis – An injury to the Achilles tendon, common among runners.
- Vein Problems – Vein problems, like varicose veins, can cause ankle swelling and pain.
- Arthritis – Inflammation of the joints that often affects the feet and ankles with pain and stiffness.
- Shin Splints – Microtears in the muscle at the front of the legs, typically caused by overuse or repetitive stress (such as long-distance running)
- Sprains/Strains – A sprained ankle is caused by rolling or twisting the ankle.
- Plantar Fasciitis – An inflammation of the tissue between the heel bone and toes.
- Fracture/Break – A break in the bones in the ankle or foot, common in the small bones in the feet.
- Dislocation – A severe injury where your ankle becomes dislocated from your foot.
Although anyone can suffer from foot and ankle pain, here are a few key risk factors:
- Weight – Stay within a healthy weight to reduce your risk of foot and ankle injury.
- Posture/Gait – Poor posture or an improper gait also increase risk.
- Activity Level – Both overuse and underuse of your feet can cause injuries. In fact, sports injuries are one of the leading causes of foot and ankle problems.
- Ill-Fitting Shoes – Improperly fitting shoes place a lot of stress on the feet, ankles, legs, spine, and neck.
- Family History – A family history of foot pain heightens your risk.
When Is Foot and Ankle Surgery Required?
Most orthopedic surgeons take a conservative approach to foot and ankle pain.
Unless absolutely necessary, they typically try a variety of non-surgical treatments, like a brace or medications, before surgery.
That said, certain foot and ankle conditions require surgery more often than others. The most common include:
- Ankle Replacement Surgery
- Bunion Surgery
- Hammer Toe Surgery
- Plantar Fasciitis Surgery
- Metatarsal Foot Surgery
Because of the many different types of foot and ankle problems, as well as the varying severity levels, only a doctor can tell you when foot surgery is required.
What About Laser Surgery?
Laser surgery is a developing form of surgery sometimes used for foot and ankle problems.
Rather than removing or discarding tissue with a scalpel, this type of surgery eliminates the problematic tissue with a laser beam instead.
Although it can’t yet be used for more than a handful of issues, laser surgery is notable for its non-invasive approach, reduced post-treatment pain, and quick recovery time.
Depending on the nature of your foot and ankle condition, your orthopedic doctor might recommend a non-surgical treatment before surgery.
The most common non-surgical foot and ankle treatments include:
- Cast/Brace – Supports the foot and ankle during healing.
- Shoe Inserts – Orthotics modify the musculoskeletal structure through the foot.
- Proper Footwear – Properly fitting footwear, that’s also activity appropriate, treats a wide variety of foot and ankle problems.
- Medication – Medication is a major part of foot and ankle pain management.
- Physical Therapy – Certain injuries and diseases can be treated with physical therapy.
Oftentimes, your orthopedic doctor will recommend a multidisciplinary approach which involves using several treatment methods simultaneously.
When Do You Need to See an Orthopedic Specialist?
Anyone struggling with foot and ankle pain can benefit from meeting with an orthopedic specialist.
You can either contact an orthopedic doctor directly or seek a referral through your primary care doctor.
Whatever the case, orthopedic surgery for foot and ankle problems will help you improve your condition, reduce associated pain, and get you back to your normal lifestyle.