A podiatrist is a highly trained specialist health professional who deals with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs. The conditions podiatrists treat include those resulting from bone and joint disorders such as arthritis and soft-tissue and muscular pathologies as well as neurological and circulatory diseases.

Podiatrists are also able to diagnose and treat any complications of the above which affect the lower limb, including skin and nail disorders, corns, calluses and ingrown toenails. Foot injuries and infections gained through sport or other activities are also diagnosed and treated by podiatrists.

How are Podiatrists Educated?

A registered podiatrist has completed a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science Podiatry. Podiatry qualifications are specifically aimed at addressing the internal and external medicine involved in the systemic diseases and local pathology affecting the feet. In Australia the profession also has formal post graduate qualifications in area including sports medicine and surgery.

The Skills of a Podiatrist

Podiatrists diagnose and treat both common and more rare skin and nail pathologies of the feet. Podiatrists play an important role in maintaining the mobility of many elderly and disabled people, and others. This achieved through the ongoing monitoring of foot health, in particular of those with circulation problems and diabetes.

Podiatrists are recognised as important members of the health care team in preventing and managing lower limb complications for those living with diabetes. A basic area of foot care undertaken by podiatrists is the treatment of various acute and chronic nail conditions, the treatment.

Podiatrists have specific instrumentation for painless and effective treatment of these conditions. For example, the surgical correction of chronically ingrown tow nails under local anaesthesia is a common podiatric procedure.

Treatment and prevention of corns, calluses and warts are also common podiatric procedures.

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Biomechanics

In treating chronic foot pain, and evaluating specific needs of patients, the podiatrist will often assess the anatomy and function of the foot and lower limbs during gait. This assessment of the shape and motion of the limb allows for an effective diagnosis of the cause of injuries and/or the development of deformities.The analysis of the function of human motion is called biomechanics. Specialised equipment, including mechanized treadmills with video and computerized assessment equipment, are often used by podiatrists to detect pathomechanical anomalies to ensure appropriate and effective treatment.This treatment may include specific exercises and the prescription of foot orthoses, from precise measurements of an individual’s biomechanics.

Sports Medicine

Any sport which involves walking, running, standing or jumping places greater physical demands on our body than normal day-to-day activities. Injuries to the foot and lower limb make up a large proportion of sporting injuries.Podiatrists examine the foot and lower limb, have a knowledge of the biomechanics of athletic movement, diagnose foot conditions and can recommend appropriate footwear, training regimens, and, if needed, orthotic devices to fit into the sports shoe. Common sporting injuries include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, stress fractures, ankle sprains and shin or knee pain.

Orthoses

Orthoses are custom-made shoe inserts made specifically to reduce a foot pathology. As already outlined, the prescription and manufacture of orthoses is an important part of podiatric practice. The podiatrists is trained in the manufacturing techniques for a diversity of shoe inserts. Most inserts fall into two main categories – functional orthoses or palliative orthoses.

Functional orthoses are prescribed after the biomechanical assessment and casting of the feet. They are made by various techniques to align the structure of the foot in its most functionally efficient position. The orthotic, moulded from the cast, is designed to stabilize the foot and to prevent it from moving into an unbalanced position while walking or running.

Palliative orthoses are designed specifically to reduce pressure from painful or ulcerated areas of the foot. These are often softer and less complicated devices made of foam or rubbers. Palliative orthoses are often used for the treatment of severely deformed feet with a limited range of motion and mobility. They are often an appropriate choice for elderly people with significant soft-tissue atrophy and/or circulatory disease.