Physical therapy is often prescribed as treatment for many foot and ankle problems and injuries, as well as a post-surgery regimen to help with healing and recovery. Physical therapy is used to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility and range of motion, promote balance, and support proper structural alignment. It can also help alleviate pain and swelling. Physical therapy can incorporate a range of treatments based on the patient’s condition, health, and ailment or injury, including targeted exercises and stretches, ultrasound, diathermy, electrical stimulation, massage, and heat and cold applications.
Neurolysis is a non-surgical procedure used to treat painful neuromas. Neuromas are benign growths of nerve tissue, or nerve tumors, that form when the nerves are irritated by surrounding tissue rubbing against them. Improper footwear that creates pressure on the foot, as well as foot structure abnormalities and injury to the nerves can cause or worsen neuromas. Symptoms of a neuroma include intense pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, and/ or a burning sensation in the toes and forefoot area. The pain usually intensifies when walking.
Neurolysis provides pain relief by interrupting nerve signals in the neuroma. A chemical such as ethanol mixed with a local anesthetic is injected into the nerve to temporarily destroy its fibers, providing pain relief.
Iontophoresis is a successful treatment for excessively sweaty feet, hands, and other parts of the body. It is a drug-free and non-invasive therapy performed in a doctor’s office, wherein a light electrical current is passed through water into the area being treated, such as the feet. The water conducts the mild electrical current through the skin’s surface, blocking the sweat before it reaches the skin’s surface. Treatment can require one or several short sessions that last about 20 minutes each.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is used to treat chronic plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, the fibrous tissue that runs along the arch of the foot to connect the heel bone and ball of the forefoot. Since the plantar fascia is subjected to great amounts of impact and pressure while supporting the foot’s arch, it can become inflamed and irritated. In some cases, it begins to deteriorate.
To treat chronic plantar fasciitis that does not respond to more conservative treatments, ESWT uses shock waves to subject the plantar fascia to microtrauma, which in turn promotes the tissue to heal and repair. ESWT can be administered using low-energy or high-energy shock waves. Low-energy shock waves delivered over a series of sessions. This form of treatment results in mild to no pain. High-energy shock wave treatments are administered in one session but are painful and require anesthesia. Both procedures are done on an outpatient basis.
Cryotherapy involves freezing and deadening skin tissue to eliminate surface growths, such as warts that form on the foot. Liquid nitrogen or another cryogen is applied with a cotton swab or probe or is sprayed directly on the skin to freeze the desired area. Some warts require multiple treatments. The procedure is done in the doctor’s office and generally heals within three weeks with little chance of scarring.
Athlete’s foot is a common foot fungus that spreads easily in public places such as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers, as these are moist conditions where people usually walk barefoot. The symptoms of athlete’s foot are itchy, burning feet with scaling and redness between the toes. Eventually, the inflammation can become painful, causing blisters and cracks in the skin. The fungus can also occur along the soles, arches, and sides of the feet. The condition can be chronic, and bacterial infections can develop in the cracks and blisters resulting from athlete’s foot.
There are many different types of fungi that cause athlete’s foot, so the type of medicine used to successfully treat athlete’s foot depends on properly identifying the fungus responsible for the outbreak. A doctor should be seen to properly diagnose athlete’s foot. There are several over-the-counter creams, sprays, and powders available to treat athlete’s foot. Medications of any kind should not be used without first consulting a healthcare professional or doctor. A doctor can also prescribe topical or oral medications to treat severe cases.