If you’ve never suffered more than a minor injury, “physical therapy” sounds like something that only happens to athletes, or people injured in some type of accident. However, physical therapy actually describes a wide range of methods for restoring normal function somewhere in the human body.
When it comes to the foot and ankle, physical therapy is a form of progressive treatment that you can use to fix many problems and injuries which may otherwise impede your ability to walk or carry out your daily activities. Over time, it can help relieve chronic pain and inflammation, increase movements of the affected area, prevent joint stiffening, rebuild muscle strength and support proper alignment of foot structures. For example, it will help you to walk, climb up the stairs, or get in and out of bed when you are faced with foot injuries that hinder your movement. For athletes, physical therapy is the key to accelerating their return to optimal performance.
The foot and ankle area is susceptible to many types of disorders, overuse injuries and trauma.
The foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is the part of the body that carries the most weight, helping you move through life. Therefore, it is not uncommon to experience foot pain due to overuse, injuries and wearing ill-fitting shoes at some point in life. Some defects or medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis can also be the root cause of problems that degrade foot and ankle function.
Physical therapy is a form of treatment that you can use to fix many foot problems and injuries which make it difficult for you to walk or carry out your daily activities. It helps to relieve pain and inflammation, increases movements of the affected area, prevents joint stiffening, and rebuilds muscle strength and support proper alignment of foot structures. This includes recovery from surgery, during which a long period of non-weight bearing may weaken these muscles and joints.
Conditions that can be helped by physical therapy
Physical therapy focuses on the treatment of different joints of the foot, which may make it difficult to move and carry out daily activities. Such foot conditions/injuries include:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Types of physical therapy required for foot and ankle injuries
Physical therapists recommends different approaches for foot injuries, depending on the nature of the problem and doctor’s recommendations. Stretching exercise may be recommended to help loosen joint capsules, tendons, or ligaments that have been injured.
Massage therapy involves applying heat or cold (ice) to the injured area. Applying ice helps to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain. Heat application helps to improve blood circulation to the affected area and also relax and heal muscles. Sometimes, it may also be necessary to use a pool or Jacuzzi as part of the physical therapy.
Ultrasound is another physical therapy which is a painless procedure that involves the use of ultrasound waves applied on the injured area. It helps to break up scar tissue and promote the growth of healthy tissue to loosen stiffened joints. It is a therapy that accelerates soft tissue healing.
Electrical simulation is another physical therapy treatment. It is the use of electrical current to create an effect in the injured area. It relieves pain, heals wounds and broken bones.
For those who have undergone surgery, joint manipulation is commonly used to restore function. A trained physical therapist will apply pressure to the foot structures, progressively building flexibility, increasing range of motion, and assisting the patient in developing motor control.
Finally, anyone who has been impacted by loss of mobility will experience some degree of muscular imbalance and atrophy. During a physical therapy program, once range of motion is restored and physical discomfort start to improve, a physical therapist will typically engage patients in a strength-building program to ensure that they can return to normal activity quickly.
If your normal mobility has diminished as the result of a disorder, deformity or surgical procedure of the foot or ankle, schedule an appointment at Houston Foot and Ankle Care at (713) 541-3199 to make an appointment with Dr. Maislos – a leading Houston foot doctorwho has helped patients correct these conditions, and also go on to an improved quality of life. He can outline clear recovery protocols for self-treatment, or provide a referral to the right physical therapist when necessary.
Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:
- reduced range of motion in foot and ankle
- inflammation, pain or numbness
- stiffness or “locking” sensation in the joints