April is Foot Health Awareness Month
Examination of children's feet is an integral part of podiatry. Frequently, children have a structural imbalance of the feet that may go unrecognized and can lead to other deformities and imbalances within the skeletal system. When detected early, imbalances of the feet, some of which are related to the bone structure, can be treated so that a sturdier foundation can be provided in adulthood.
As the old nursery rhyme goes, ‘The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone’….
Our feet are our foundation and cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the body. Therefore, any foot abnormality could influence the body further up the spine, altering posture and gait (walking style), resulting in back, neck, and shoulder pain. This is similar to how poor foundations can cause general structural problems and instability in a house.
The human foot is a highly complex bio-mechanical engineering marvel. Containing 26 bones (more than a quarter of all the bones in the entire body), 33 joints, more than a hundred muscles, tendons, ligaments, and thousands of blood vessels and nerves, soft tissue and skin, all integrally networked and operating in unison to provide support, load-bearing, balance, strength, flexibility and resiliency needed for things most of us simply take for granted, such as standing, walking, running, jumping, and climbing both on and over a variety of surface types all on two relatively small appendages – our feet!
However, the complex nature structure of human feet makes them subject to numerous maladies from overuse, injury, and disease. This is particularly true for children whose feet undergo rapid changes as they develop over the twenty-plus years that it takes for their feet to fully form.
Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs) - also known as Podiatrists - are Physicians and Surgeons with extensive specialized education and rigorous training in diagnosing and treating disorders, diseases, deformities, and injuries of the foot, ankle, and lower extremities. They can specialize in a wide variety of areas, including sports medicine, surgery, biomechanics, dermatology, orthopedics, diabetic foot care, and pediatrics.
"Parents can help ensure their children's good foot health by keeping a watchful eye on their feet. For example, make sure to measure children's feet each time you purchase new footwear to help ensure proper fit. Poorly fitting shoes can cause blisters, calluses, corns, ingrown toenails, sprains, and strains. Watch for wear patterns on shoes – more wear on one side could indicate that the foot is rolling to that side and may require a corrective device. Watch for sudden limping or favoring one foot over the other, which is usually a sign of pain, and may indicate an injury. Check socks for excessive wetness or discoloration. And, schedule regular pediatric podiatric checkups," says Diane Branks, DPM, President, California Podiatric Medical Association.
As an elite healthcare professional of the foot and ankle, a podiatrist can be an important member of a child's/teen’s/young person’s healthcare team. Podiatrists can examine children's feet to check for abnormalities early, make shoe recommendations based on size, shape, and gait, and prescribe corrective footwear/devices if necessary. And, due to the harmful impacts that diabetes can have on the feet, regular pediatric podiatric checkups are essential for children with diabetes.
Maintaining and caring for a child’s feet will benefit their health, mobility, independence, and wellbeing throughout their entire lives.
Your Feet Shouldn’t Hurt