Why Physical Therapy Is Important for Foot Problems

A woman holding up the bottom of her foot while sitting down

Our feet and ankles are used daily, and their health is paramount to our happiness and productivity. Whether you are an athlete, on your feet all day at work or struggling with a medical condition, you might suffer from an injury or ailment requiring surgical treatment. Surgery is just one part of the solution, however. Following up with specialized physical therapy is the most effective way to speed up recovery, reduce pain and improve your well-being.

In therapy, you can learn to increase your movements and regain strength. Physical therapy can also help with common foot injuries, helping you improve your mobility and return to your favorite activities comfortably.


What Is Foot and Ankle Therapy?

Physical therapy is a treatment modality that often employs techniques like specific movements, exercises, heat or ice treatments, massages and instrument-based approaches. The goals are to help clients stretch and strengthen areas surrounding the joints, tendons, bones or muscles. Physical therapy can treat foot pain, such as that from plantar fasciitis, and aid recovery from ankle sprains or foot and ankle surgeries.

Other common foot or ankle injuries that can benefit from physical therapy include:

  • Tendinitis or tendinosis: Achilles tendon injuries are very common, occurring when the area becomes inflamed from damage. Tendinosis is chronic tendon damage where the fibers become hard, thickened and scarred.
  • Shin splints: These occur when you overload leg muscles, tendons or shin bone. The condition is common among runners and gymnasts, causing pain in the shin area.
  • Stress fractures and strains: Stress fractures in the feet occur as a result of putting repeated strain on the bone. The bone develops a small hairline crack in response to the pressure.
  • Ankle osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis of the ankle occurs due to cartilage wearing away. It can cause stiffness, swelling and joint pain, making walking challenging.

During the recovery period, physical therapy is crucial for successful healing. It can decrease pain and improve the range of motion and function. Physical therapy can also help prevent you from developing further medical complications.



Do You Need Physical Therapy After Foot Surgery?

Physical therapy is crucial to promote healing after foot or ankle surgery. Devoting time and effort to treatment can help strengthen the affected parts of your body so you can return to physical activities. Many clients that undergo physical therapy consider the investment well worth the time, energy and cost. Studies show you can experience faster recovery time and a lower rate of injury recurrence after undergoing physical therapy treatment.

Many people also find foot and ankle therapy exercises enjoyable. They can be easily incorporated into an everyday exercise routine for better overall health and long-term fitness.

Here are just a few benefits of physical therapy for feet and ankles:

  • Prevent injuries from reoccurring
  • Increase strength, mobility and range of motion
  • Improve comfort and well-being
  • Return to enjoyable activities
  • Minimize the development of scar tissue
  • Manage post-operative pain without prescription medications

Starting physical therapy shortly after foot or ankle surgery can help you regain and improve your mobility. Without proper treatment, mobility might be limited or worsen after surgery. Physical therapy can also help you rebuild strength, which is crucial since, many times, patients lose significant amounts of strength following a procedure. As you return to your normal activities following physical therapy, you can also prevent future surgeries from becoming necessary.


How Does Physical Therapy Work?

While you don’t always need a referral to attend physical therapy, as you might for other medical treatments, it’s still a good idea to speak with your doctor about your injury. Health professionals will have an understanding of your surgery and medical history, helping you develop a plan to treat the affected areas while reducing pain. Each exercise will be individualized to your activity level, and physical therapists can provide self-management education to reduce the chance of recurrence. For example, some therapeutic exercises can strengthen the upper and lower leg and foot muscles to improve gait patterns.

Physical therapy can often help with the following symptoms:

  • Pain or stiffness along the ankle, the bottom of the foot, the top or the toes
  • Calf tightness
  • Difficulties walking or bearing weight
  • Weakness in your calves, ankles or feet
  • Loss of balance on your affected leg

Aside from exercises, physical therapists might use specialized equipment and techniques. For example, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a method of applying pressure on muscles or specific trigger points. Another is using strategically-applied kinesiology tape, which gives resistance to affected areas to strengthen the body. Therapists can also provide orthotic footwear to promote healing and comfort.

Specific exercises might involve using devices like canes, crutches, braces or other devices that support you as you rebuild your strength and range of motion. Your physical therapist will work with you through stretching and exercises to increase your mobility after foot surgery.


How Long Does Physical Therapy Take for Foot Pain?

Physical therapy for foot pain can last a few weeks to several months, but the regimen will vary depending on your ailment or injury. You can expect sessions within two to 12 weeks following surgery, starting with a professional evaluation. Physical therapists will review your medical history and surgical procedures to determine the areas needing protection, massaging or exercising for the most effective treatment. After establishing a plan, clients can expect to attend therapy sessions two to three times a week.

While it can be tempting to start running or working hard immediately after surgical treatment, you mustn’t get ahead of yourself. Physical therapy for feet and ankle injuries can help you gradually build strength and increase mobility so you can safely and comfortably walk again.

While therapy will not always ensure a full recovery, you should remain optimistic. With determination, hard work, the right treatments and guidance, the human body can make amazing recoveries.


Contact Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates for Any Foot or Ankle Problem

Certain conditions can cause significant foot and ankle pain and become debilitating. After all, we need our feet to walk and perform most daily activities. Without proper treatment, foot and ankle conditions can progress and lead to more severe issues. At Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates, our specialists can help diagnose and treat any problem causing you pain.

We provide physical therapy and evidence-based treatment techniques to help you heal and increase comfort, so you can return to the activities you love the most. Physical therapy can also reduce your chances of injuries reoccurring.

If you are experiencing foot or ankle problems, call us at 360-754-3338 or fill out our form for a consultation.



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