Do you know what a podiatrist is or what a chiropodist can do? Do you know the difference between them? Do you know when you should see one? Emma Ryder, our expert podiatrist in Sheffield based in our Greenhill branch, has written a mini guide to help you understand more about your feet and what a podiatrist can do for you.
A podiatrist or chiropodist is a qualified health professional that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of problems with the lower limb, and common foot complaints such as bunions and ingrowing toenails. Many people get confused as to the difference between the terms podiatrist and chiropodist. There is no difference, they are both ‘foot doctors’. They have the same skills and qualifications. The name was changed to the internationally recognised ‘podiatry’ in 1993.
The role of the podiatrist/chiropodist is to prevent, diagnose and treat abnormal conditions of the foot, ankle and lower leg. They can help to alleviate day to day foot problems such as fungal toenails, verrucae’s, corns, blisters, cracked heels, infections, athlete’s foot, and smelly feet; alongside offering you and your family advice on how to care for your feet and the type of shoes to wear.
There are many different branches of podiatry which registered podiatrists study whilst completing their university degree. These branches include routine care, MSK (musculoskeletal), paediatric, forensic, diabetic wound care and education.
Most people will appreciate that if you have a sore foot, it can seriously hamper your day to day activities. So…
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort from your feet, you may want to visit a podiatry or chiropody clinic in Sheffield where a podiatrist will be able to diagnose and treat your complaint.
People will most commonly seek treatment for routine care of their feet. The podiatrist can professionally debride (remove) calluses (hard skin) and corns from your feet, and cut your toenails if mobility, thickening of the toenails, or infection make it difficult for you to do yourself.
Toenails should be cut following the contour of the nail, and not too short. Nails should not be cut down the sides, but also not straight across as this can leave sharp corners, which can pierce the flesh of the toe resulting in an ingrowing toenail or wound. Where thickening of the nail plate is present gentle filing over the top of the nail can help to reduce this.
Corns and calluses occur over areas that are subjected to pressure and friction. This pressure may be a result of inappropriate footwear, poor foot mechanics (i.e. the way you walk), or because of your day to day activity (sport, work). Corns can feel like little stones when you are walking. It is strongly advised not to try and cut these out yourself, or use corn plasters. These pads contain an acid which can burn the healthy skin as well as the corn itself.
Verrucas, often mistaken for corns, and visa-versa, are wart lesions that occur on the foot. They are caused by a virus so they will not necessarily occur in places subject to pressure or friction. They often appear with small black dots and can be painful when squeezed. Unlike corns, they cannot be removed via debridement. Verrucae do not necessarily cause pain and may disappear by themselves. If, however, it does appear to be getting bigger, a course of treatment can be devised with the podiatrist to include debridement of overlying callus and use of topical caustic ointment.
Foot pain can also be caused by biomechanical issues; problems that arise from the way our muscles function and joints are aligned. MSK podiatry is the assessment of the mechanics of the lower limb. The foot has many bones and muscles which work together to allow the foot and ankle to move in different directions during the walking and running cycle. If the foot moves incorrectly during this cycle it may cause the other muscles, bones, joints in the feet, legs, hips and back to compensate. Compensation often leads to these muscles and joints to end up working harder, resulting in aches and pains. These pains do not disappear and may have an impact on our daily activities.
During your appointment, the podiatrist may recommend you wear specific footwear, or the use of orthotics (tailor-made inserts) to help with your foot complaint. Orthotics can minimise your symptoms and provide you with the customised support that your feet require to make it more comfortable for you to spend time on your feet daily.
The podiatrist can observe the way you walk and the range of motion of the joints in your foot and ankle to identify any abnormalities that may be causing your problem. If the foot is moving in a direction that it shouldn’t the prescription of orthotics and exercises by the podiatrist may help support the foot. Orthotics can help to improve lower limb mechanics and prevent deterioration of the condition, therefore reducing the risk of serious effect of poor alignment on knees, hips, and the lower back.
Podiatrists can also diagnose and treat more complex foot problems related to sports injuries, foot complications due to diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you are suffering from any of the foot conditions mentioned in this guide, or have any other foot related concerns or questions, book in for an appointment with our experienced podiatrists in Sheffield today. You can book by calling our Greenhill or Bradway branch and ask for the podiatrist.
For peace of mind during your appointment, it is important to note that all our podiatrists are HCPC registered. It is a legal requirement that all healthcare professionals are registered to practice. The Health and Care Professions Council is the regulatory body to whom all qualified podiatrists are registered with. To check on the professional status of a podiatrist (or another Allied Health Professional) you can check the HCPC register here.