Starting Your Day on the Right Foot

Amina Khan, Editor-in-Chief of Print Newspaper

Scared of the flu and know the season is approaching? Get a flu shot.
Twisted your ankle? Get a waistband.
But have you ever wondered about the importance of keeping your feet healthy? After all, they’re like the workhorses of your body, taking about 5,000 steps a day, equivalent to 2.5 miles (WebMD). Not to mention that your feet have to bear the weight of your body every step of the way. Feet can be easy to neglect, but it pays to take care of them, helping to preserve and improve your mobility. Have your foot in the door this season with health tips and advice from Dr. Philip R. Yearian from Puget Sound Orthopedics.
Yearian calls himself a Physician of the Foot and Ankle; he is a Board Certified Surgeon and Podiatrist. He said the lower body and feet are important because they have an important connection to the rest of the body. “I always tell my patients the foot is the most important part of the body because if you don’t exercise your feet you don’t have a good heart.”
Common injuries that Dr. Yearian observes in high school students, whether they are involved in athletics or not, are fractures, tendonitis, ankle sprains, and the most recurring and common injury is apophysitis. Calcaneal apophysitis (also known as Sever’s disease) is a painful inflammation of the heel’s growth plate. Treatments that Yearian recommends for apophysitis include: reducing activity that causes pain, supporting the heel with proper shoe inserts or orthotic devices, and physical therapy stretching. In some cases, immobilization may be the best option. In severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile.
Dr. Yearian has advice and tips for keeping feet healthy this season. He said, “Generally speaking, in running, or other core sports, frequently the shoe or the cleat often times is one of the problems.” He said that shoe gear is critical and what’s in the shoe. If an athlete has a flat foot or high heels, they need good arch support from their shoes. Foot hygiene is just as important. He says that Athlete’s foot (a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes, commonly occurring in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tight-fitting shoes) isn’t as prevalent as it used to be in the 70s and 80s because middle and high schoolers are showering less in the school’s bathrooms. However, mats not being cleaned properly can cause Athlete’s foot or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body.
Exercising feet is just as important for keeping them healthy and maintaining strength and balance. He discussed the towel method for stretching intrinsic muscles. He said, “Everyday activity with your feet is important.” Some people don’t usually think about stretching the tops and bottoms of their feet, but stretches can help you treat—and prevent—foot pain. Stretches for the Achilles’ tendon are also important.
When discussing injury prevention methods, Yearian said, “If you have an existing injury and your favoring it, then you’re likely to injure something else.” Physical ability, genetics, and shoe gear are important to keep in mind.
Yearian has also performed numerous foot surgeries on student athletes. He stated that common surgeries among high school students include joint fractures. Fractures breaks are common in the fifth metatarsal—the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the little toe. Surgery is needed because, he said, “A sustained long injury won’t heal on its own.”
Yearian also performs surgeries on senior citizens and the general public. He treats dislocated joints, Bunioncetomy surgeries, hammertoes, realigning bones and arthritis in the joints, to name a few. When discussing the process of surgery, he said that patients are unable to walk for 6 to 8 weeks or months, there is an immediate casting process, physical therapy, and then patients get back to their regular lives. They can be very active and continue with physical exercises, such as running or playing tennis.
As a person ages, we might wonder what causes them to lose mobility on their knees and hips? Yearian answered, “As a person ages, everyone loses some level of strength and conditioning. Certain foot types cause people to get progressively worse.”
When discussing the progression of injuries nowadays, as opposed to in the past 10 years, he discussed how injuries have changed nowadays, and shoes have gotten a lot better. He voices his opinion about how the level of competitive sports has increased and that there’s a lot more organized sports. In fact, in 1974, he said, “My sister was the first to play women’s basketball. Women’s sports weren’t as common.” Overall, he summarized: “I think you see a lot more injuries because of the pure volume of kids playing sports.” He also attributes that to the specialization of sports. For example, he said that while lacrosse wasn’t very popular back in his days, now he sees a huge influx of kids participating in the sport.
His additional comments for The Lion were: “I always tell students if you’re interested in a career in medicine, spend a day with a physician and see what the physician life is like. Sometimes there’s preconceived notion. I’ve had 10 or 12 kids spend a day with me. It’s important for us to pass down our knowledge to the next generations, and that’s why I like teaching residents. The most important thing we have is years of experience. You see so many things over and over again, you become an expert because you’ve treated those things so many times.”