Caring for Kids
Many foot and ankle problems start from a young age. Unfortunately children don’t grow out of these conditions and need correction to ensure the biomechanics of the foot are not damaged permanently.
Early intervention treatments can help eliminate problems in later life, such as intoeing (pigeon toed), out toed, flat feet, pronated feet, knee, hip and back pain and bunions.
Treatment can commence from as early as 2-3 years of age. Leaving it until later may mean you miss the early sign of an emerging condition.
If you are unsure if your child needs treatment, read below about the range of common conditions.
Intoeing “Pigeon Toed”
This is a very common condition seen in kids. It occurs when the foot points inwards, which is mainly due to internal torsion and rotation of the tibia (the calf bone). As a result the foot turns inwards and children trip over frequently and may seem clumsy.
The body struggles to realign the inward rotation of the tibia. This forces the body to use other compensatory muscles to rectify the child’s walk. This causes muscular aches and fatigue, growing pains and pelvic muscular compensation problems.
This is the exact opposite of intoed or pigeon toed conditions. It is referred to when walking with the foot pointing outwards most likely due to an external or outward rotation of the tibia causing the foot to point outwards.
Signs and symptoms include muscular aches and pains, leg pains, knee pains, groin pains/tightness, excess pronation of the feet and typical ‘duck walk’ gait.
Treatment includes the use of orthotic therapy with intoe gait plates to rectify the outward rotation of the tibia.
The term ‘Flatfeet’ is a fairly common condition among adults and children. This can occur when the arch of the foot collapses, causing complete or near complete contact between the sole of the foot and the floor. In some cases, the arch never develops, so the condition exists from birth.
The arch of the foot provides the connection between forefoot and hindfoot and helps to absorb weight. It eases pressure on lower limbs and diverts the load away from bones and tendons.
People who suffer from flat feet also experience pain in their forefoot, ankles, legs, knees and lower back.
Sports injuries do more than interrupt the game. They can also cause great pain and invite problems later in life.
Some common complaints include lateral ankle sprain, Achilles tendonitis, anterior knee pain, joint strains, ligament weakness, shin splints and muscle tears.
Most are due to biomechanical irregularities, so rather than simply treating the symptoms, it is important to focus on the underlying cause of the problem.
The body will compensate for biomechanical defects, causing muscle imbalance and strains, ligament and fascia tears, cartilage degeneration, bone mal-alignment and postural problems.
Treatment for lower limb sports injuries usually involves the use of orthotics. This helps to realign the body’s biomechanical structure and correct musculoskeletal complaints.
Knee problems can become extremely painful when left untreated. The most common complaint is known as patella-femoral pain, which involves diffused discomfort around the kneecap or patella. It sees the pain increase during sports activities and while using stairs.
The other common condition is knee arthritis, which is characterised by a decrease in the space between the two bones that comprise the knee joint.
Most knee pain can be attributed to foot and ankle issues, so tackling these complaints can bring relief to the patient.
The first step is a detailed assessment to identify imbalances and muscle complaints. Once a diagnosis has been found, a range of pain-reducing treatments are available to reduce pain and discomfort.
This includes custom inserts to adjust the position of the foot and relieve pressure of the knee joint. In some cases, other remedies can be used to reduce pain like dry needling, knee mobilisations and prolotherapy.
When the plantar structure of the foot is overstretched, tearing and inflammation can occur. This condition is known as Heel Spur Syndrome or Plantarfasciitis.
Some of the symptoms associated with Heel Spur Syndrome include
- Heel and arch pain.
- Pain while getting out of bed or after a period of sitting down.
- Development of heel spur (x-ray required)
- Pain during exercise (especially running or prolonged walking)
The most effective treatment for heel pain is orthotic therapy. This helps to realign the plantar structures of the feet and reduce stretching, so that the foot is under less pressure and can start to repair.
Ingrown toenails occur when a nail breaches the surrounding skin. This may be a result of an incorrect toenail cutting technique, inappropriate footwear, a previous condition or issues with the mechanics of the foot.
Often an infection follows, causing pain and discomfort over an extended period of time. However, treatment is relatively straightforward when a professional podiatrist is consulted.
This is referred to as pain around the ball of the foot. There are many causes to ball of foot pain, from collapsed metatarsal head, reduced forefoot padding, arthritic and joint pathologies to the most common condition known as “Morton’s Neuroma”
It involves numbness between the toes, usually in the 3rd and 4th intermetatarsal space but can also occur in any other intermetatarsal space.
It is caused by the intermetatarsal plantar nerve becoming entrapped, with relief coming only when footwear is removed.