How a foot specialist can help you
If you’ve had chronic pain in your ankle and/or your foot for some time—due to injury or severe arthritis—your family doctor or your surgeon may be able to refer you to a foot care specialist. This may be a podiatrist, a chiropodist, a physiotherapist trained in foot and ankle care or a chiropractor.
Here are some ways these care providers can help you, both before and after ankle replacement surgery:
- Provide you with a full “biomechanical” assessment
The goal of this exam is to determine how your foot and ankle perform during simple activities such as walking. Pain and deterioration of the ankle joint often causes people to change their gait (how they walk) which can lead to pain in other parts of the body. Based on this assessment, the podiatrist may recommend you change to a certain type of shoe or that you be measured for special shoe inserts (orthotics).
- Recommend that you wear a supportive brace
A custom-made plastic ankle brace (also called an “orthosis”) can help control ankle pain and other symptoms while you’re waiting for surgery. The device, which is worn on the lower leg and foot, supports the ankle, hold the foot and ankle in the correct position, and corrects a common symptom called “foot-drop.” (People with drop-foot—also called “foot drop”—find it hard to move their ankles and toes upward. When they take a step forward, the front of the foot must be deliberately lifted upward to prevent the entire foot from dragging along the ground.)
- Ensure that you’re wearing the right kind of shoe
- Before ankle replacement surgery - If you’re surgery date is still months away, and unless you’re already wearing special supportive shoes (with or without orthotics), you should see a podiatrist for an assessment. He or she may be able to provide a temporary solution to your symptoms. Better ankle support before surgery may help improve your post-surgical outcome.
- After ankle replacement surgery - Most surgeons who do ankle replacement surgery work with podiatrists and orthotists who assess and help patients during recovery. Ask your surgeon if he or she can recommend someone.
- Recommend that you be fitted with an orthotic shoe or shoe insert
Wearing the right shoes or shoes with orthotic inserts can make a big difference in your gait (how you walk), changing the pressures placed on your entire leg, ankle and foot. This can reduce pain and swelling. While many shoe inserts are available over-the-counter in pharmacies and in specialty shoe stores, be cautious before spending a lot of money on these products. It’s better to consult one of the foot care specialists mentioned here (i.e.,a podiatrist, chiropodist, specially trained physiotherapist or chiropractor.) This person will assess your needs and may recommend either an inexpensive orthotic insert or tell you that you need a custom-made device). Some—but not all—of these services and products may be covered by your health insurance plan.