Get Back On Your Feet: How A Podiatrist Can Help

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Approximately 70 to 75 percent of Americans experience foot pain at some point in their lives. It’s no surprise. The foot can bear two to three times a person’s body weight in a single step — and is prone to a variety of injuries and conditions.

What Is A Podiatrist?

Most people think of a podiatrist as a purely foot doctor. However, a podiatrist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of the lower extremity, which includes the foot, ankle and leg. Podiatrists are also known as podiatric surgeons or foot and ankle surgeons. 

Nicole Brouyette, D.P.M., a foot and ankle surgeon with Henry Ford Health System, answers some common questions on how podiatrists can help people get back on their feet:

Q: What kind of care does a foot and ankle surgeon provide?

Dr. Brouyette: Podiatric surgeons are highly trained specialists who provide a wide range of medical care. This includes:

  • Biomechanical studies that show how the foot or ankle are working
  • Diagnosis through specialized imaging
  • Joint replacement
  • Medical treatment
  • Medication
  • Surgery, including minimally invasive surgery

Some podiatrists also have a special focus in their practice, such as caring for athletes, arthritis or diabetes-related concerns. Whether we practice broadly or within a niche, podiatrists work closely with other medical professionals. This ensures that we’re treating the whole person.

Q: What conditions do podiatric surgeons treat?

Dr. Brouyette: Podiatrists care for more than ingrown toenails, bunions and heel pain. Although they do provide care for these common conditions, podiatrists treat a host of issues. The foot has 28 bones, 107 ligaments, 33 joints and 19 muscles.

Our training allows us to treat the problems that affect this complex part of the body, as well as the ankle and leg. Common conditions that podiatrists treat include:

  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Ankle dislocations, fractures and sprains
  • Congenital issues in children
  • Flat feet
  • Foot fractures
  • Hammer toes
  • Plantar fasciitis

When To See A Podiatrist

Q: Why would someone seek help from a podiatrist rather than another type of doctor?

Dr. Brouyette: Podiatrists study podiatry, a branch of medicine dedicated to the treatment of the foot, ankle and leg. We undergo intensive training to learn the whole body, then focus on the lower extremity. This allows us to use our special expertise to diagnose conditions and provide treatments that get patients up and running.

Q: When should someone seek help from a podiatric surgeon?

Dr. Brouyette: If you have foot or ankle pain for more than a week or a foot or ankle injury, it’s time to see a podiatrist. The faster you get in, the sooner you can be treated. If you wait, problems could worsen, leading to a longer recovery time. I also recommend seeing a board-certified specialist who has undergone rigorous training to ensure the best possible care.

Q: Should kids see a foot and ankle surgeon? 

Dr. Brouyette: If a child is complaining of pain or if a parent thinks something is going on with a child’s foot, ankle or leg, consult with a podiatrist. It’s never too early to see a specialist, even if it’s to create a future treatment plan. The goal is to not only to address what’s wrong, but to prevent future complications.

Caring For Your Feet

Q: What’s the best way to ensure foot health?

Dr. Brouyette: There are many steps people can take to keep their feet and ankles in tip-top shape. Walking promotes circulation and can help control weight, reducing the chance of some health conditions and preventing additional load on the feet.

I also recommend wearing comfortable shoes with good support. Women have four times more foot problems than men, and some of that has to do with shoe selection. Take care of your feet, and they’ll return the favor.

Q: What should someone look for when choosing a podiatrist for foot and ankle care?

Dr. Brouyette: You want to find someone who can provide you with a comprehensive approach to care. At Henry Ford, we not only have board-certified podiatric surgeons, we also have first access to state-of-the-art technology to ensure quick diagnosis and proper care. We’re an academic institution and are front-runners in innovation and research. We also collaborate closely with other specialties to provide whole-person care.

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To find a podiatrist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

 Dr. Nicole Brouyette is a foot and ankle surgeon who sees patients for podiatric needs at Henry Ford Hospital — Detroit, Henry Ford Medical Center — Fairlane and Henry Ford Medical Center – Pierson Clinic.

Categories: MoveWell