Worried About Foot Pain? When is Urgent Care Necessary?

Almost everyone will experience foot and ankle pain in their lifetime. The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that 77% of adults have experienced foot pain, and for 80% of them, the pain is constant. Surprised how common it is? Yet only a third of them seek care from a podiatrist.

We think this number is far too low.

Doctor bandaging patient's ankle

Where to go for urgent foot care?

Podiatry is the treatment of the feet and their ailments. A podiatrist isn’t just a foot doctor, they’re a specialist in foot and ankle care. We treat injuries as well as chronic conditions. Podiatrists can provide surgical intervention, reset broken bones, and prescribe medication.

Many foot problems stem from a lifetime of neglect and overuse; from wearing improper footwear and not seeking early medical attention for injuries.

Some foot injuries can be treated safely at home when the pain is minimal and there’s no infection or protruding bones. Pain associated with injury may respond to rest and ice therapy applied to the affected area. Activities that aggravate the injury should be avoided. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen also help with pain and reduce swelling.

If the cause of the pain is unknown or severe, and there are underlying health concerns like diabetes, scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist is recommended.

What urgent foot and ankle problems does a podiatrist treat?

Feet are complex structures composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles working perfectly together to keep you mobile. By the time you’re 50 years old, you will have walked 75,000 miles. That’s a lot of mileage!

Woman holding ankle pain

Podiatrists treat people of any age for many foot conditions, including:

  • Fractures and sprains – common injuries affecting the foot or ankle; fractures may require a cast; ankle sprains require rest so the ligament heals properly.
  • Sports medicine – athletic injuries and education on how to avoid them.
  • Bunions and hammertoes – these conditions involve the bones of the feet; a bunion occurs when the joint at the base of the big toe becomes enlarged or displaced; a hammertoe occurs when the toe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint.
  • Nail disorders – can be caused by a fungal infection or an ingrown toenail; an ingrown toenail occurs when the corner or side of a toenail grows into the flesh.
  • Athlete’s foot – athlete’s foot is contracted in dark, damp, warm environments like a public pool or shower or from wearing damp socks and tight shoes.
  • Calluses – a callus is a thickened, hardened part of the skin that has been subjected to repeated friction.
  • Arthritis – caused by inflammation and swelling in the joints; each foot has 33 joints; podiatrists help arthritis in the feet by recommending physical therapy, medications, special shoes, or inserts to alleviate pain and increase mobility.
  • Heel pain – sometimes caused by plantar fasciitis that doesn’t respond to in-home treatment like icing, orthotic inserts, rest, and stretching; heel pain and foot pain that increases in intensity; numbness, tingling, or burning in the feet or heels; pain not associated with weight-bearing.
  • Morton’s neuroma – a benign, painful condition that affects the ball of the foot; the tissue around the nerve that leads to a toe thickens from irritation or compression; common in middle-aged women.
  • Achilles tendonitis – the Achilles tendon is found at the back of the heel; it can become inflamed due to repetitive stress, though tight calf muscles and bone spurs make inflammation here more likely.
  • Plantar fasciitis – inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes; causes heel pain and can be caused by tight calf muscles or bone spurs; podiatrists treat plantar fasciitis with heel pads, cushions; regular stretching of the foot is suggested; steroid injections can provide relief if none of this works

Depending on individual circumstances and health history, a podiatrist may schedule a same-day appointment or may refer the patient to a hospital or emergency room for any life-threatening condition.

Is an urgent care facility the place to go for foot and ankle problems?

Urgent care primarily fills the gap when a podiatrist or primary care doctor’s office is closed but you need to be seen immediately. Providers are trained to determine when immediate care is required and can make referrals to a hospital or emergency room facility for other treatment options.

Urgent care facilities often perform simple X-rays but are not equipped to offer surgical intervention. Going to urgent care is a good first stop for an injury that needs immediate attention but isn’t severe enough for the emergency room.

Is an emergency room the place to go for foot and ankle injuries?

Emergency room doctors are experts at handling emergencies, not providing specialized foot care. If symptoms don’t require emergency treatment, the patient is referred to a specialist for further treatment.

Any of the following symptoms require emergency care:

  • Lacerations of the heel of the foot with heavy bleeding
  • Sudden inability to move or bear weight on the heel or foot, accompanied by fever, chills, and nausea
  • Suspected rupture of Achilles tendon marked by a popping sound in the heel; followed by severe pain and inability to bear weight
  • Signs of a stress fracture or broken bone in the heel or foot; inability to bear weight, swelling, and severe pain
  • Prior diagnosis of diabetes accompanied by a laceration or injury to the heel or foot

Does a podiatrist help with diabetic foot care?

A podiatrist provides important advice and health care to protect your feet from the effects of diabetes. Podiatrists are trained to understand the connections between diabetes and the feet.

If you have diabetes, you should work with your healthcare provider to appropriately manage your blood glucose levels. Over time, diabetes damages multiple organs and systems in the body and may cause problems with the kidneys, heart, nerves, and eyes.

Diabetic foot ulcer

Diabetes causes an increased risk for foot damage due to peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves) and vascular disease. These conditions can lead to tingling, numbness, restricted blood flow, ulcers, gangrene, and many other health problems.

Helping a patient understand how diabetes affects their feet can limit the negative impact. For example, nerve damage may cause a patient to misjudge the temperature of water on the feet, leading to burns. Diabetes can also slow wound healing, leading to infected sores or ulcers, so daily foot checks are necessary.

Your podiatrist can recommend proper foot care techniques to limit potential damage from diabetes.

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

Whether you need to find proper footwear, treat an injury, or get advice on proper foot care, we’re here to help. Our podiatrists offer the most advanced podiatry care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists and leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions and common injuries.

For a consultation please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

Our podiatrists take patients’ safety seriously. Our podiatry facility’s Covid-19 patient safety procedures exceed all the CDC’s coronavirus pandemic recommendations. Masks are always required in our institutes.

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot doctors are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, Valencia, and Santa Barbara.


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