Physical Therapy and Podiatry Go Hand-in-Hand! (Or Foot-in-Foot?)

Foot pain can be a truly frustrating situation, but the good news is this:

The majority of lower limb problems are resolved successfully without the need for surgical intervention.

And when it comes to conservative (nonsurgical) care, we have many possible treatment options at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists to help you find the relief you are seeking.

Podiatry and Physical Therapy

Conservative Care Options for Foot Pain

Some of those options fall in the “tried-and-true” category. Examples of these treatments include: rest, cold therapy (icing), medications, and orthotic devices; all of which can be beneficial in various ways for certain conditions and patients.

Beyond the classics, our office has advanced, state-of-the-art tools and techniques to help restore an injured foot or ankle back to health. These are things such as: laser therapy, extracorporeal pulse activation technology (EPAT), and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy.

Of course, even though most patients are effectively treated with these options, “most” is not the same as “all.” Accordingly, we do sometimes need to perform surgery in rarer cases. Typically, this applies to instances when severe pain or dysfunction is in the picture.

Understanding Physical Therapy

Even with all of treatment options, we still have more to offer! And by this, we are referring to something that is useful in either rehabbing an injury or recovering from surgery—physical therapy.

Given that physical therapy can help in both of those facets, hopefully it’s easy to see that this particular medical practice is a natural fit with the practice of podiatry. Especially if you think about the key role your feet play in enabling you to move.

And our partnership with Three Lakes Physical Therapy, right next door to our Bee Caves office, makes it seamless for patients to get the help they need.

So what exactly constitutes physical therapy? The average person probably has at least a basic idea, but let’s take a closer look real quick.

Essentially, you can think of physical therapy as being a medical practice using biomechanical processes—essentially, “body movement”—to achieve the goals of restoring function, relieving pain, and/or improving fitness levels for a patient.

physical therapy

Why Physical Therapy?

Now when people hear the term physical therapy, the first thing that often springs to mind is a professional or collegiate athlete injured during athletic competition or practice and trying to get back to their sport. That’s certainly understandable—after all, sports injuries are often well-communicated to the general public (especially in this day and age of 24/7 news cycles).

You don’t even have to participate in high-level sports to potentially benefit from this kind of medical treatment. Physical therapy can be quite important for helping even amateur athletes and fitness enthusiasts overcome injury.

When we talk about physical activities like these, it can become glaringly apparent how this therapy frequently goes hand-in-hand—sure, we’re podiatrists here, but “foot-in-foot” just isn’t a thing—with the field of podiatry.

A big reason for that comes down to the fact there are numerous foot and ankle injuries which can happen during a vast majority of physical activities.

Of course, not all physical therapy is only sport-related. Sometimes, it’s used to assist employees who had been injured at work be able to get back to their job. At other times, this is a valuable practice for helping people recover following accidents.

One more example of where physical therapy can be used is in helping a patient recover from foot or ankle surgery (regardless as to why the surgery needed to be performed in the first place).

Stretches and other exercises are important for things like restoring range of motion and developing flexibility and muscle strength—all of which may be diminished or lost in some surgical procedures. Physical therapy also promotes healthy blood circulation, and this is so important as the body works to repair itself following the procedure.

While physical therapy can help you recover from injury (sports-related or otherwise) and following surgery, it also might be prescribed as part of a conservative care program for other foot or ankle issues. Our doctors might recommend this practice for individuals who have been suffering from long-term health issues, such as arthritis.

Since we just mentioned it specifically, exercise is actually one of the best nonsurgical treatment options for arthritis. It might seem odd that a condition that causes pain (in joints) when you move can be managed by moving more, but the improved muscular strength, range-of-motion, and flexibility all are quite beneficial.

Physical Therapy and Foot Pain

Specific foot and ankle conditions that can potentially benefit from physical therapy include:

  • Ankle sprains – Sprained ankles are highly common—even for non-athletes—but returning to action too soon after an ankle sprain increases the likelihood of ankle instability and recurring injury. A better approach is to incorporate physical therapy into the treatment plan. This serves to gradually and strategically ramp up activity levels so the ankle can regain full functionality (without the risk for long-term issues).
  • Achilles tendonitis – As with an ankle sprain, this injury can easily recur if the damaged tendon isn’t fully healed before returning to activity. A proper physical therapy plan will serve to reduce the risk of an Achilles tendon rupture by gradually increasing the intensity of stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Plantar fasciitis – This is the most common source of heel pain for adults, and it can also be treated with physical therapy, including stretches to keep the muscles and connective tissues in your feet, ankles, and lower legs limber.
  • Neuropathy – If damaged nerves have caused muscle weakness, physical therapy is a potential option to improve movement and restore balance. That being said, it would be highly unusual for no additional treatment to be needed. (Fortunately, nerve pain treatment happens to be a practice specialty here at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists and we provide comprehensive care for nerve pain and difficulty in the lower limbs.)
  • Arthritis – Your feet and ankles contain 33 different joints. This means lots of opportunity for arthritis—a condition of swollen, inflamed, and painful joints—to develop. As noted earlier, one of the best conservative treatment options for arthritis in feet and ankles is physical therapy consisting of stretches and strengthening exercises.

Reducing Foot and Ankle Injury Risk

In addition to treatment, physical therapy can also be used on a preventative basis. Physical therapists are trained in the field of kinesiology—the science of how our bodies move—and well-versed in a range of exercises. Combined, these two factors allow physical therapists to create plans that improve flexibility, balance, strength, and range-of-motion (in joints), all of which are essential in reducing foot and ankle injury risk.

Whereas it is basically impossible to completely eliminate injury risk when you are physically active, this is a smart practice for at least keeping yourself as safe as possible while performing favorite activities.

In the event you do find yourself needing foot and ankle care, contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists and we will diagnose the problem and create a solution to resolve it for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling (512) 328-8900 is you have any questions or would like to request an appointment with one of our Austin offices.

 

 

Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists
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