Columbus podiatrists keep seniors on their feet

Columbus podiatrists keep seniors on their feet

"Motion is life and life is motion." It's one of Dr. Terry Philbin's favorite mantras and a principle that he uses to motivate his elderly patients at highly rated Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Center in Westerville [Ohio].

"If you can't get up and around, it's not only a problem for your joints, it's a problem for your entire life," he says. "It impacts your entire picture of health."

Mobility, however, can be daunting for seniors plagued with bunions, hammertoes, corns, calluses and a multitude of other foot issues. Feet take a beating - five to seven times your body weight with every step, Philbin says - and start to break down late in life as the fat pad under the foot shrinks, tendons weaken and arthritis sets in.

Mary Faulhaber of Columbus [Ohio] says she witnessed the effects of age while caring for her late mother. She hired highly rated Dr. Lee Pearlman, a podiatrist at Step Lively Foot & Ankle Center on Cleveland Avenue, to care for her mother's ingrown toenails and diabetes-related issues, such as numbness and poor circulation.

"In her case, he tried to keep her moving," Faulhaber says of Pearlman. "She'd see those scooter ads on TV and say, 'If everyone else is getting one, why can't I get one?' I'd say, 'Because they really are not good for you. We are going to keep you walking as long as we can.'"

Dr. Randall Contento of highly rated Central Ohio Podiatry Group in Westerville says if a patient tells him that walking hurts, he tries to find ways to reduce or eliminate the pain. For instance, he's seen many elderly patients with painful calluses several millimeters thick on the soles of their feet. Solutions include trimming the callus and prescribing insoles. "What that's meant to do is distribute the weight, so that one spot is not taking so much pressure," he says.

A simple callus left untreated can require surgery. "The skin between the callus and the bone will start to die, and you'll end up with an ulceration," he says. "That can get pretty serious."

The elderly also commonly develop tendon injuries, Philbin says. Sprains that might disappear in the young only get worse in older people, he says. Surgery may be too risky for an elderly patient, he says, so a brace or other nonsurgical solution "will make them more functional and alleviate pain."

To find foot and ankle specialists on the List, search for either podiatry or orthopedics - foot & ankle. Orthopedic specialists complete medical school and a five-year residency in orthopedic surgery. Podiatrists earn at least 90 hours of undergraduate education before attending a four-year college of podiatric medicine. The state medical board licenses both.

Contento says training for podiatrists varies, and patients should seek those with an additional two- to four-year residency. Most insurance companies cover podiatry visits without a referral, but check to be sure.

The most important point is to get help from somebody, experts say. "A lot of times we can do something very simple and get you back in the game," says Dr. Corey Griffith of highly rated Clintonville and Dublin Foot and Ankle Group. "If you wait too long, you are not a good surgical candidate."


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