Foot and Ankle Frequently Asked Questions

At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we get a lot of questions! Our online FAQ guide is packed with brief, easy-to-understand answers to some of the most common and important questions we receive. Read on to learn more!

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  • Why do I have pain in the bottom of my heel?

    Heel PainPain in the bottom of the heel is usually caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. Do you find that your heel pain is worst in the early morning, or when you stand up after a long sit (for example, watching a movie)? That’s another common sign.

    Plantar fasciitis is characterized by inflammation, stretching, or tearing in the plantar fascia ligament. This band of tissue runs across the entire sole of the foot, from heel to toes. Its primary job is supporting the arch, but daily wear and tear can weaken and damage it, usually near the connection point with the heel bone.

    Of course, there are other possible explanations, including bruising, thinning of the fatty pad under the heel, stress fractures, nerve compression, etc. Most of these are also related to factors like athletic overuse, poor shoe choices, etc. Whatever the reason for your heel pain, you can always visit the nearest office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists for prompt evaluation and treatment.  


  • What is regenerative medicine?

    Regenerative MedicineRegenerative medicine is an emerging category of research and treatments that focus on harnessing and magnifying the body’s own natural healing and anti-inflammatory abilities, rather than simply managing painful symptoms. These advanced technologies are often able to restore healthy functioning to badly damaged tissues and can provide faster recovery for performance athletes, as well as long-awaited relief for those suffering from chronic pain.

    Regenerative medicine techniques employed by Northwest Extremity Specialists doctors include:

    • Extracorporeal pulse activation treatment (EPAT)
    • Platelet-rich plasma therapy
    • Amniotic tissue injections

    At Northwest Extremity Specialists, our team is fully committed to providing state-of-the-art facilities and treatment options for our patients, including regenerative medicine. To schedule an appointment, contact your nearest office today.

  • What foot complications are associated with diabetes?

    Diabetic FeetDiabetes puts feet at an elevated risk for a serious complication or injury. Two conditions, in particular, lay the groundwork for most of these problems:

    • Peripheral neuropathy—nerves in the feet and legs deteriorate and die, leaving you less able to sense danger and more likely to overlook cuts, bruises, sprains, or other injuries.
    • Poor circulation—blood flow to the feet and ankles becomes compromised. This reduces the effectiveness of your immune system and ability to heal injuries. It also means your tissues get less oxygen and fewer nutrients. In extreme cases, they could even die due to lack of nutrition.

    Because of this unfortunate combination of factors, people with diabetes are more susceptible to all kinds of foot injuries and conditions. This especially includes complications that frequently lead to amputation if not treated in time, such as:

    • Wounds and ulcers that don’t heal and may become infected
    • Tissue death (gangrene)
    • Charcot foot deformity

    If you have diabetes, it’s critical to get your feet checked regularly by a specialist—even if there are no obvious problems. To book your appointment, call your local office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists today.


  • Should I see a doctor about my ankle sprain?

    Man With Sprained Ankle

    It is strongly recommended that you visit a foot and ankle specialist (podiatrist) after any ankle sprain, and avoid putting weight on the affected foot in the meantime.

    Ankle sprains are significant injuries that lead to severe consequences if not treated and rehabilitated promptly and properly. Complications can include:

    • Failure of the ligaments to fully heal
    • Increased likelihood of re-injury
    • Development of chronic pain and arthritis
    • Development of chronic wobbliness and instability in the ankle joint

    Furthermore, your ankle sprain may occur alongside other injuries, including fractures, that may also need treatment.

    If you twist or sprain your ankle, please contact one of the many offices of the Northwest Extremity Specialists today.

  • What are the advantages of minimally invasive surgery?

    Bandaged FootMinimally invasive surgical techniques, also known as minimal incision surgery, can provide significant advantages for patients in comparison with more traditional open surgery techniques. By reducing the size of the surgical opening and using specialized tools to do the work, we can:

    • Get you in and out of the office faster
    • Decrease your risk of post-surgical infections and complications
    • Reduce post-surgical pain
    • Shorten your overall recovery time and allow you to return to weight bearing and physical activities sooner
    • Minimize post-surgical scarring
    • Lower the overall financial cost of surgery in most cases

    To learn more about how we can help you with your foot pain, call any office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists.


  • What are the advantages of laser treatment for fungal nails?

    Laser TreatmentLaser treatment for fungal nails has plenty of significant advantages over other treatments, which typically require a daily regimen of oral antifungal medications for 6 to 12 weeks.

    • More effective. Cure rates are higher for laser treatment than with older treatments.
    • Safer. Oral antifungals are known to cause bad side effects in some people, including skin rashes and liver damage, and may not be appropriate for all patients. By contrast, laser treatment requires no medication and has no known side effects.
    • More convenient. Older treatments require daily pill-taking and even occasional blood tests to ensure your safety. The laser treatment course, however, requires an average of just three monthly sessions, usually lasting less than 30 minutes each. There’s no downtime afterward either, making it easy to fit into your busy schedule.

    If you are suffering the embarrassment of unsightly fungal nails, please contact your nearest office of the Northwest Extremity Specialists to learn more about your treatment options.


  • Why do I have pain in the front of my foot?

    Foot PainThere are actually several reasons you might be experiencing pain in the front of your foot, and this is important to determine so you can receive the treatment you need.

    • If there is a bump at the base of your big toe—and the toe is angling inward—the cause of your forefoot pain is a bunion.
    • If you have a toe or toes that are curled in an abnormal fashion, the cause of your forefoot pain is a toe deformity like hammertoe, mallet toe, or claw toe.
    • If you are experiencing electrical or burning sensations, the cause of your forefoot pain could be a neuroma. This is a bundle of irritated nerve endings and most commonly develops between the second and third toes (Morton’s neuroma).
    • If you are experiencing sharp pain following a traumatic injury—like dropping something heavy on your foot—the pain could be caused by a broken bone. In this instance, professional diagnosis is necessary to determine the extent of the fracture, and then be used to create a treatment plan centered on immobilizing the broken bone so it can heal correctly.

    There are other potential causes of forefoot pain, so the best practice is to come see us here at Northwest Extremity Specialists. Our physicians are experienced in helping patients overcome a wide range of lower limb problems – including some that develop in the front of the foot.

    Contact us today if you have any other questions!

  • When is surgery necessary for foot pain?

    Whenever possible, the Northwest Extremity Specialists prefer to use non-invasive treatment methods to alleviate your foot pain. We have invested in advanced conservative therapies, including regenerative medicine, that have proven effective at healing injuries that otherwise may have required surgery.

    Foot SurgeryHowever, sometimes surgical treatment is necessary in order to correct a problem that cannot be fixed in any other way.

    • For some severe injuries, like an unstable bone fracture, surgery is the only realistic treatment option.
    • For other painful conditions, surgery may be considered only after appropriate conservative treatments have been attempted without success. For example, the pain from progressive foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes can often be remedied non-surgically in the early stages. However, once the deformity has reached a certain point in its development, surgical reconstruction might be required.

    At Northwest Extremity Specialists, our physicians are proud to offer an array of advanced treatment options. We will always review your options carefully and closely before recommending the most effective care plan for your situation. To schedule an appointment, contact the Portland-area office closest to you.

  • Should I see a doctor about my ingrown toenails?

    Yes, you should.

    Ingrown ToenailIngrown toenails occur when the edge or corner of one of your toenails grows into the nearby flesh. This condition can cause pain, swelling, tenderness, and may even develop an infection. If you have diabetes, circulatory problems, or a suppressed immune system, ingrown toenails can be especially dangerous.

    Fortunately, ingrown toenails are very easy for a professional to treat. We can simply cut out the ingrown portion of the nail, which should provide immediate relief for your symptoms. If necessary, we can even remove a portion of the nail matrix so that the ingrown edge of the nail will never grow back.

    If you develop an ingrown toenail, there is no need to take risks with home care. Make an appointment at one of our convenient Portland-area offices to get your toenail fixed today.

  • How can I prevent running injuries?

    RunningRunning is a popular pastime and a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors. However, it can also lead to pain and injury. If you regularly find yourself in pain during or after a run, you may wish to visit a podiatrist for help with injury treatment and prevention. Tips include:

    • Wear appropriate footwear. Your running shoes need to fit both your foot shape and your running style.
    • Talk to a podiatrist about custom orthotics or arch supports. These can help support your feet and reduce pressure and stress as you run.
    • Warm up and cool down before and after every run.
    • Stretch and strength train regularly to maintain your flexibility and reduce muscle fatigue.
    • Increase the mileage or intensity of your runs gradually. Going too hard, too fast, too soon can lead to injury.
    • Cross train in multiple athletic disciplines. Rather than only running, or only playing sports with running and jumping, spend some of your training days on low-impact exercise (such as cycling or swimming).
    • Choose less stressful terrain. Running on softer, more level surfaces can reduce the strain.
    • Listen to your body. If you are in pain, stop before you get seriously hurt.

    If you sustain any kind of foot or ankle injury while running, please visit Northwest Extremity Specialists to review your treatment options.