Many Americans experience foot problems and pain on a daily basis, and often have a choice in what physician they can see first for treatment. Some chose to see their family doctor first, others go to an emergency room or urgent care center. A smaller number of people actually directly go to a foot specialist (podiatrist) to have their condition treated. There are a number of conditions that need podiatric care from the start, as these conditions require either the expertise of the specialist or the success of their treatment courses in order to ensure a full and speedy recovery. This article will discuss five of those conditions, and why podiatric care is superior to that of a general physician in these cases.
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Heel pain on the bottom of the foot is very common, and is usually caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis (not a heel spur as many people mistakenly claim, even physicians). This condition is easy enough to START to treat, but in order to allow it to completely resolve and not return the treating physician must have a thorough understanding of foot biomechanics (how the foot structure interacts with shoes and the ground during standing and motion), as the foot’s structure plays a dominant role in how plantar fasciitis begins in the first place and continues despite activity restriction. Podiatrists have this understanding, and are able to combine medical treatment with structural support to resolve heel pain permanently. Surgery may be necessary in some cases, which nearly all podiatrists perform, although on average this is less than 5-10% of the time.
Many family physicians and urgent care centers can provide some rudimentary care for painful ingrown toenails. This usually consists of a prescription antibiotic and soaking instructions, or a basic removal of the ingrown side of the nail. Unfortunately, these measures are only part of the treatment process, as ingrown nails must have their sides removed permanently to prevent the process from starting all over again when the nail side returns to full length. These is an extra treatment step involving a chemical that is typically used for the destruction of the nail root cells following removal of the side of the nail, called phenol, which is not often carried or offered by most family practices or urgent care centers. By seeing a podiatrist first, one can have permanent resolution of their chronic ingrown toenail pain in as little as ten minutes.