Some common conditions of the foot:Fractures: While there are a large number of bones in the foot, fractures tend to occur in the some areas more frequently. It is common to fracture the toes (phalanges) through some type of trauma, dropping something on them, hitting them on furniture, etc. The other common type of fracture is a stress fracture and usually occurs in the metatarsal bones (the long bones of the forefoot). Stress fractures usually result from higher intensity activity that increases the stress in the bones and leads to an eventual fatigue failure. Frequently a period of rest, and/or immobilization is required to allow the fracture to heal. Physical therapy may then assist with restoring lost motion and strength that accompanies immobilization.
Plantar Fasciitis: The plantar fascia is specialized connective tissue on the bottom of the foot that attaches to the heel bone (calcaneous) and runs up to the base of each toe. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this connective tissue. Symptoms commonly present as a sharp pain at the heel with weight bearing, especially upon first rising in the morning. It may subside during the day as the bottom of the foot loosens up, or may be a constant ache. While traumatic plantar fasciitis can occur, it is more common a chronic problem due to excessive loading of the foot. In many cases the increased tension on the plantar fascia may contribute to the formation of a bone spur at the front of the heel. Symptoms may be present with or without a spur, and frequently a spur may be present but asymptomatic. In both cases physical therapy treatment is the same, reduction of pain and inflammation, and finding and modifying the cause of the excessive loading on the fascia. In cases where the structure of the foot varies from the norm (high arch, flat feet), generic or custom made orthotics may be beneficial in reducing the stress to the plantar fascia. Early recognition and treatment of plantar fasciitis is very important in preventing it from becoming a long term or reoccurring problem.
Bunions (hallux valgus): Hallux valgus is a condition where the big toe drifts towards the second toe stressing the inside of the metatarsal-phalangeal joint and creating chronic irritation to the joint. The result is a large bump on the base of the first toe that can create a significant amount of pain and have a profound affect on walking. Bunions often accompany flat feet. In cases where the condition is treated early, the inflammation may be resolved, and action can be taken to modify the position and stress on the foot to minimize further progression. In severe cases surgery may be required to fix the deformity and improve foot mechanics.