There are several options for treating conditions that cause chronic foot or ankle pain. In addition to rest and ice, laser therapy, shockwave treatment, and surgical procedures, physical therapy can also be an effective solution to many causes of pain and discomfort in the heel, foot, toes, and ankles. At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we will recommend physical therapy if we think it is the best way to address your foot or ankle pain, given your diagnosis and goals for an active lifestyle. We take a look at how physical therapy is used to treat certain conditions here.
Conditions That Can Be Helped by Physical Therapy
Physical therapy (PT) is a form of treatment that focuses on body movement and physical function. It can help patients who have suffered an injury or who have structural abnormalities that cause pain and limit mobility. Physical therapists might use massage and joint manipulation in conjunction with stretching and strengthening exercises to help you overcome physical limitations and chronic pain. Physical therapy sessions usually take place once or twice a week for several weeks. For best results, patients are often expected to do exercises or stretch at home between sessions.
As far as foot and ankle conditions, PT can be an effective treatment for:
- Achilles tendinitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Arthritis and bursitis
- Strains and sprains
- Healed fractures
If a podiatrist has recommended physical therapy for your foot or ankle condition, it is important that you complete the entire course of treatment and that you do your “homework” or at-home exercises and stretches.
What a Physical Therapist Might Do to Treat Your Condition
After a referral from a podiatrist and an assessment of your pain level, range of motion, and gait mechanics, a physical therapist will develop a plan that addresses the root cause of your pain and mobility issues. Your plan might include treatments such as:
- Reducing swelling. Traumatic injuries can cause painful swelling, so it’s important to reduce the inflammation as much as possible before beginning treatment. Rest, compression, ice, elevation, and anti-inflammatories can get the swelling, stiffness, and pain under control.
- Increasing range of motion. Once the swelling is gone, you might be gradually given exercises that flex and extend joints to slowly increase the range of motion. Circling the ankle, writing letters in the air with your toes, and doing heel raises are possible exercises for foot and ankle pain.
- Adjusting gait mechanics. Your gait is your style of walking and can be a chicken-or-egg situation that needs addressing. Did an unusual gait cause your injury, or did your injury force you to compromise your gait? Either way, your therapist will analyze your gait and begin to retrain you in a normal heel-to-toe walking pattern. Band and free weight exercises might also be used to support a healthy gait.
- Strengthening exercises. Some foot and ankle injuries and chronic conditions are caused by weakness in surrounding muscles. In a PT session, you might do strength training exercises that target the weakness that is the underlying cause of the pain and limitation.
- Teaching activity modifications. If it is impossible for you to do certain things without pain, your therapist will help you modify your movements to avoid pain.
Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution to foot or ankle pain. Even two patients with plantar fasciitis might end up with different treatment plans, depending on their goals and physical limitations. A skilled physical therapist will continuously adjust your sessions to meet your needs and achieve your goals.
Call the Northwest Extremity Specialists Office Closest to You
If you’re tired of living with foot and ankle pain, the skilled podiatry team at Northwest Extremity Specialists is ready to provide the relief you need. If we believe you would benefit from physical therapy sessions to alleviate your pain and increase your mobility, we will help you get started with treatment today. Call us at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.