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Undressed to the Ankles:  Your Feet and Your Annual Physical

Undressed to the Ankles: Your Feet and Your Annual Physical


You are at your annual physical, ready for the doctor to enter. You are undressed to the ankles. But wait a minute -- aren’t you forgetting something? What about your feet? They can hold the key to many aspects of your overall health. Make sure you take off your shoes and socks, as examination of the feet is an important part of any comprehensive check-up.  

Sure, many of us get used to dealing with chronic foot pain or other seemingly minor complaints. But the fact is, pain or other foot concerns can be an indication of health issues related to your entire body, not just the foot. A podiatrist, as a specialist in treating foot problems, will be able to make connections like these more readily, but there are a number of things you can look out for on your own.

For example, pain in a big toe joint can be a symptom of gout, and numbness or unhealed sores could indicate diabetes. Swelling might indicate kidney disease, heart disease, or high blood pressure. It’s important that you share foot concerns and complaints like these with your physician, so they can have complete information when evaluating your overall health status.

A comprehensive foot exam includes the following areas: skin, circulation, flexibility, sensation and balance. It’s important to make sure that your feet are functioning well in all aspects. If you’re experiencing extreme pain or other alarming symptoms, your doctor might refer you to a specialist such as a podiatrist for further evaluation and treatment.  

On the flipside, pains in other parts of the body can be a sign of misaligned feet. Common symptoms of misaligned feet are back pain, hip pain, knee pain and shoulder pain. If you suffer from chronic pain in any of these parts of your body, and there doesn’t seem to be a local explanation, or if you have orthotics that don’t seem to help, the problem could be with your feet. The good news is, a podiatrist qualified to treat this condition can provide solutions to help with misaligned feet, offering you relief from all sorts of discomfort you may be experiencing.

So at your next annual physical, make sure your exam doesn’t stop at your ankles! Your feet may hold the key to your overall good health. Until then, here are six tips to help you maintain good foot health:

  1. Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet on a regular basis, using an antibacterial or anti-fungal soap. Dry your feet well, especially between the toes.  Wash and dry all tools you use on your feet. Wash your hands after touching your feet or using foot products. Wear clean socks, and keep your shoes clean and dry.
  2. Cut your toenails straight across. This will help you prevent infections and ingrown toenails.
  3. Wear shoes that fit properly and are activity appropriate. Much foot pain is caused by shoes that do not fit properly or that force feet into an unnatural shape. Prevent injuries by wearing footgear that is designed and engineered for the types of stresses that feet experience during specific activities.
  4. Inspect your feet regularly. Check for any abnormalities or changes to the skin and nails, and follow up immediately if you observe anything unusual.
  5. Have a podiatrist check the alignment of your feet. Flat feet, bunions and heel pain, all of which may be linked to poor foot alignment, are conditions that can be treated. Secondary problems such as knee pain, hip pain and back pain can also be caused by poor alignment of the feet.
Don’t ignore foot pain. If any symptoms persist, see a podiatrist.

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