Foot Pain: How Podiatrists, Orthopedists & Physical Therapists Can Help Keep Dogs from Barking

Posted on: 9 December 2014

An estimated 75% of Americans will experience some form of foot condition at some point in life. When foot pain becomes unbearable, knowing where to turn for help is not always easy. A number of medical professionals deal specifically with foot and ankle disorders, but sometimes the foot problems originate in some other part of the body.

Here is a brief introduction to three foot professionals—podiatrists, orthopedists, and physical therapists—and how they can help resolve existing foot problems, prevent future disorders, and determine if the source of foot pain is somewhere other than the foot. 

What is a Podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating foot, ankle, and lower leg disorders. Some of the most common disorders that podiatrists diagnose and treat include sprains, bunions, ingrown toenails, fractures, and heel spurs. Podiatrists also play a key role in identifying risk factors and helping patients prevent future foot disorders.

After diagnosing a foot disorder, a podiatrist will treat the condition or make a recommendation, like a shoe change or stretches. In some circumstances, the podiatrist must refer the patient to another physician; this is because foot problems are often symptoms of other diseases that cannot be treated by attending to the foot or ankle. 

What is an Orthopedist?

An orthopedist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions. Sometimes, orthopedic specialists treat a variety of musculoskeletal problems, but others concentrate specifically in foot, ankle, and lower leg disorders. 

Because orthopedists attend medical school and residency, they can address foot and lower leg issues that accompany other health conditions. Their services can be truly beneficial in cases where the muscular problems or bone conditions are not restricted to just the feet, like Lyme disease or muscular dystrophy.

What is a Physical Therapist?

A physical therapist is a health professional who helps patients with pain management, flexibility, rehabilitation, and other mobility conditions. 

Because physical therapists have a strong focus on mobility, they are excellent resources for foot and ankle conditions. They can also help athletes with both preventative care and injury recovery. For example, a physical therapist can help a long distance runner improve stride, select proper shoes, and address pronation issues that interfere with effective forward motion.

A physical therapist can help with issues that go beyond the foot and ankle region as well; by addressing arm swing or posture problems, a physical therapist can relieve the patient's aching feet. 

If you feel that your feet need any or all of these services, talk to local specialists such as Mid Nebraska Foot Clinic.