How To Select The Right Specialist for Foot and Ankle Care?

When you’re physically active, your body bears the brunt of your movements.

Just like your car or truck can show signs of wear and tear all over its body and tires after months or years of being constantly on the road, your body can also exhibit symptoms of overuse.

The foot and ankle carry most of your weight throughout the day, especially if you’re an athlete or if your work involves quite a lot of standing or walking.

It’s quite common for people to experience pain, swelling, and weakness of the foot and ankle, which depending on the nature of the pain or injury, can be treated with adequate rest, ice, medications, and non-surgical methods such as orthotics, walking boots, and braces.

In more severe cases, surgical treatment may be required to treat the condition.

Which Specialist Should You See

Which health specialist should you approach when you begin feeling symptoms of foot and/or ankle problems that are preventing you from going through with your normal routine?

Should you see a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon? And what about a podiatric surgeon — what’s the difference?

To help you better understand the distinctions between these health professionals, here are some basic descriptions of each so that you can make a better decision on whom to consult for your foot and ankle problems.

A Podiatrist

A podiatrist is a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine — the only health care professional whose training focuses solely on the foot, ankle, and related body systems. He or she is a graduate of a four-year doctoral training program at a college of podiatric medicine followed by at least three years of podiatric medical and surgical residency.

The human foot and ankle are very intricate anatomical structures — they contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, and a complex network of blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissues. To be an expert in these areas requires specific specialization that only the podiatrist possesses.

A podiatrist is intensively trained in addressing all diseases and conditions related to the foot and ankle, from calluses to ingrown toenails, from fallen arches to heel spurs, and from foot deformities to common injuries — he or she is licensed and certified in the exclusive treatment of these conditions.

A Podiatric Surgeon

In addition to having all the knowledge, skills and qualifications of a podiatrist, a podiatric surgeon would also have completed additional training in all aspects of foot and ankle surgery.

Thus, if you require something more than conventional treatment options, you can approach a podiatric surgeon as he or she is licensed to perform surgery in the outpatient and hospital setting.

A podiatric surgeon is licensed to perform surgeries resulting from sports injuries, deformities of the foot and ankle such as bunions, and injuries such as fractures or tendon ruptures. A podiatrist also specializes in saving limbs that have been affected by such diseases as diabetes and peripheral arterial disease.

An Orthopedic Surgeon

An orthopedic surgeon or orthopedist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the entire body’s musculoskeletal system — the network of bones, joints, ligament, tendons, and muscles that enable the human body to move.

They are also licensed to perform surgery in both the outpatient and hospital setting. Some orthopedists choose to specialize in a specific body part, such as the back, shoulder, arms or the knees. Orthopedic surgeons that specialize in the foot and ankle generally have only 1-2 years of post-graduate training on the foot and ankle as opposed to podiatric surgeons that spend at least 7 years of training on the foot and ankle..

An advantage of seeing a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon if you have foot and/or ankle problems is that their training focuses solely on the foot and ankle and can offer a broad range of medical and surgical treatments.

The abilities to stand, walk, run, jump, and keep your balance are important for normal daily and pain-free function. If you notice symptoms in your foot and/or ankle that impedes any of these abilities, your should consider seeing a podiatrist or podiatric surgeon for help in reducing your pain and getting you back on your feet, hopefully without surgery, but can offer that service if needed.

The Bottom Line

When searching for a qualified foot and ankle specialist, consider a podiatrist that is also a podiatric surgeon, then you get the best of both worlds for the diagnosis and treatment of your foot and ankle condition(s).

What To Do Now

If you are experiencing foot and/or ankle pain and would like to see a qualified professional who specializes in the foot and ankle, call the Timonium Foot and Ankle Center and schedule an appointment to see Dr. Jordan Stewart.

Dr. Stewart is both a podiatrist and podiatric surgeon, Certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery (ABFAS). ABFAS certification ensures that board-certified surgeons have completed appropriate training, successfully performed a diverse range of podiatric surgical procedures, and passed extensive written and oral examinations.

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