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What are Common Foot Problems in Older Adults?

People entering the twilight of their years face a lot of age-related problems. One of the most common problems older adults have to deal with involves the health and condition of their feet. 

Foot problems are a major concern for older people as they can drastically affect their mobility. And once mobility is involved, it will lead to other issues like falls, decreased exercise, and difficulty fulfilling everyday weight-bearing tasks.

This blog will look at the causes of common foot problems, preventive measures for them, and actionable tips for treating these different conditions. Let’s look at four of them. 

Flat feet

Most people usually have an arch in the inner middle of each foot that slightly raises it off the ground. This slight curvature helps with spreading weight evenly, allowing your feet to walk on various surfaces.

But as you get older, connective tissues on your feet begin to stretch, causing the arch to flatten. And once it does, your feet will tend to roll to the inner side when standing or walking. This will result in overpronation, which leads to your big toe and second toe handling most of the push-off. It will also cause over-rotation of the tibia, eventually leading to higher incidents of shin splints.

When to see a doctor

If you have a flat foot and do not experience pain or other discomforts, then you’re safe from overpronation. However, if you feel the following symptoms, you should seek medical advice:

  • Pain in the arch of the foot, knees, hips, calves, ankles, and lower legs
  • The flat foot only recently appeared
  • Arch on one or both feet are becoming flatter
  • Your feet feel stiff and rigid when you stand or walk

Flat feet treatment 

Exercises

One of the most common exercises that can treat this foot condition is heel cord stretches. 

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Face a wall and plant both hands at eye level
  • Position the leg that needs stretching one step away from the other foot
  • Bend the knee of the front leg until you feel the back leg is stretching
  • Do not arch the foot and plant it firmly on the floor
  • Hold for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds
  • Perform ten repetitions

Foot support

Wearing foot support is also another way of managing a flat foot. This is called orthotics, as it will provide proper arch support to correct the issue. It’ll also support the heel or the ball of the foot to improve the condition further.

Medications and surgery 

To control the pain and swelling caused by the foot problem, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is often the last resort when dealing with flat feet. Tendon repair, the creation of an arch on your feet, and fusing your bones or joints are just some of the avenues that will be explored. You can also seek chiropractic treatments and massages to manage your pain and discomfort from flat feet. 

Hammertoe

Hammertoe is another common foot problem for old people. This condition is an abnormal bend of the toe caused by footwear, foot structure, or certain diseases like diabetes. The toes that are often affected are the second, third, or fourth toes. The condition is also more prevalent in women.

Symptoms

The affected toe will have an abnormal bend causing pain and immobilization. Swelling, stiffness, and discomfort are also common symptoms of hammertoe. 

Treatment

Most of the time, hammertoe can be treated by wearing roomier shoes that have half an inch of space between your longest toe and the tip of the footwear to let your toes stretch better.

Over-the-counter pads might also be in order to reposition your toe and decrease pain and pressure. Exercises like crumpling towels with your toes can also help stretch and strengthen the affected area. If surgery is needed, you can undergo different methods like bone fusion, tendon transfer, and joint resection, depending on the severity of your condition. If your hammer or claw toes are not too severe, you can also go for chiropractic adjustments if your toes are still flexible.

Osteoarthritis

Foot osteoarthritis affects one in six people who are age 50 and above. It’s a degenerative disease caused by the normal wear and tear of the cartilage cushioning the bones located at the joints. However, other factors like previous injuries and abnormal foot mechanics also contribute to its early manifestation. 

Symptoms

  • Pain and swelling in the joints of the affected foot
  • Difficulty of walking
  • Immobilization of the foot
  • Bone spurs 

Aside from symptoms, this foot problem often occurs in three major locations: the ankle joint, the big toe joint, and the subtalar joint or talocalcaneal joint. 

Treatment

You can initially do conservative treatments to manage your osteoarthritis. These include:

  • Analgesics to relieve pain and discomfort
  • Over-the-counter pads to act as support and cushion
  • Orthotics
  • Exercises – greater toe flexion, ankle alphabet
  • Dietary patterns to ease inflammation
  • Dietary supplements

If none of these treatments work due to the severity of your condition, you can undergo surgery to treat your osteoarthritis. You can undergo arthroplasty, fusion (arthrodesis), or joint replacement (arthroscopy). If you want non-invasive treatments, you can opt for chiropractic care and physical therapy for relief. You can go for adjustments to improve your range of motion or have personalized treatment plans to manage your condition. The main objective here is to relieve pain and restore your overall mobility to return to your normal lifestyle. 

Dry skin

While this is by far the easiest to treat and prevent among the four, you should still keep an eye out for it as it can lead to other complications. Dry skin in adults often leads to calluses and cracked heels.

If left unattended, the compromised area will worsen and provide openings for bacterial infection leading to problems like cellulitis. Once this sets in, a host of symptoms will follow, including pain, redness, swelling, and fever.

Fortunately, preventing this common foot problem is as easy as moisturizing the soles of your feet daily. You should also pair this with cushioned shoes to make up for your thin foot pads caused by decreased collagen production.

Visit the LifeClinic blog for more health, lifestyle, and fitness advice.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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