According to artists’ depictions, humans’ bipedal ancestors had problems with flat feet, and seemingly had very large big toes. So perhaps present-day foot problems began as far back as life in the cave. Though feet form platforms for mobility, stability, and can help keep people fit and trim, it seems people and their feet have had a few issues over the millennia.
For instance, for hundreds of years Chinese women had their feet bound as a status symbol, and the wealthiest were carried around on litters because walking was difficult. Today, many people would like to be carried around on litters because of foot pain.
Dr. Roy Mathews, DPM, a Vancouver- and New Westminster-based podiatrist started his studies in the Kinesiology Department at Simon Fraser University and is now employed at their Athletic Department. He took further studies in Chicago and finished his residential surgery in North Hollywood before opening his practices in l997.
Dr. Mathews estimates that seniors account for about 50 per cent of his patient list. Their numbers are increasing rapidly because of a rise in the population of active seniors, who are no longer satisfied with sedentary lifestyles.
“Tired and achy feet” is the most common complaint among older Canadians. The causes of these problems are many and diverse.
Pronation and supination are terms that describe the motions of walking. Pronation allows feet to absorb the shock when walking, but flat feet distribute that shock unevenly, which can lead to overpronation. Overpronation (ankles rotating inward) can cause misery. Most of the stress with flat feet is caused by the inner part of the foot taking most of the pressure. This, of course, causes the knee, hip and often the rest of the body to become unaligned. Technology, used to find out how the foot strikes the ground with each step, is no longer confined to elite medical offices, but is now becoming increasingly accessible to all.
“Foot mapping is a relatively new technique in which the pressure points of [a patient’s] feet are noted, making the correct diagnosis for orthotics more precise than ever before,” says Dr. Mathews. There are pharmacies in the Metro Vancouver area that now feature foot-mapping kiosks, which measure each foot’s unique characteristics and recommends the most appropriate orthotic.
However, Dr. Mathews cautions, Buyer Beware. “Many [consumers] think that because they have gone into a shoe store and been fitted with orthotics by salesclerks wearing white coats, they were qualified foot specialists.” This is rarely the case. Instead, people can be duped into paying ridiculously high prices for the same products they could have bought for a fraction of the cost at their local pharmacy. Dr. Mathew’s suggests visiting a local podiatrist, if a good off-the-shelf orthotic doesn’t bring noticeable relief.
Incorrectly diagnosed foot problems and the wrong orthotic insert may cause irreparable damage. And sore feet can dampen lifestyles. Walking is touted as the least expensive and most effective remedy for all sorts of physical ailments, but if walking is modified because of pain, further damage can ensue and normal activities curtailed - often resulting in weight gain, which presents another set of problems.
Afflictions such as ingrown toenails, flat feet, nerve pain caused from diabetes, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis and bunions are a few of the problems feet encounter, which can worsen with age.
“The main cause of tired, achy feet described by seniors can often be due to the fact that older people will go around the house in bare feet or slippers without support,” says Dr. Mathews. “Strong, structured sandals for indoor wear are ideal. Our feet need support - at every age.”
The instruction to “use it or lose it” is often quoted by Dr. Mathews in his diagnoses because “not only structure (provided by good footwear) but strength is important.”
Persistent foot pain as soon as a person gets out of bed in the morning is a sure sign to “look at the soles of your feet,” advises Dr. Mathews. “Any areas you notice that are red or sore looking may be signals your feet need professional care and attention.”
So don't delay! Call your podiatrist today and say, "I have Happy Feet."
JANUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND
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