Angie's LIST Guide to
Foot and ankle orthopedics

Orthopedic doctors concentrate on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of diseases or injuries of the musculoskeletal system. Some of these orthopedists specialize in treating conditions affecting the foot and ankle.


Orthopedic specialists treat joint problems and other issues involving the musculoskeletal system.

Foot and ankle pain and ailments

Your feet are complex parts of the body responsible for movement, balance and many rigorous functions. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the average person should take between 8,000 and 10,000 steps every day. All of these steps can lead to a number of feet problems. You may sometimes experience pain in your foot or ankle that your doctor may have difficulty diagnosing. 

Many people with foot pain usually locate it under the ball of their foot (the metatarsal), the area between your toes, the arch of your foot, and the area of the long bones at the bottom of each toe. Pressure on the bones can cause problems, such as tendonitis and fractures. People with flat feet can experience problems just like people with high arches, like plantar faciitis or fallen arches.

Problems with the ankle may include Achilles tendonitis, posterior tibiae tendonitis, fractures, cartilage damage and gout, as well as arthritis and a variety of sprains. Other issues may include heel pain, posterior heel pain, toe pain, bunions and arch pain.

If you are unsure of why you're experiencing pain in your feet or ankles, you should seek medical attention. Some of your symptoms might include the inability to walk comfortably or bend your ankle, injury on or around the joint, pain that lasts more than a few days, swelling, infection and pain while sleeping.

Orthopedic treatments

In many situations, the cause of pain might be undue pressure on the feet, and the orthopedic doctor may suggest that you change to a different type of shoes, wear shoe inserts or use mild anti-inflammatory medication to treat an infection or fungus. Depending on the seriousness of the injury, treatment might include braces or special footwear.

For ankle pain, the orthopedist may suggest stretching exercises for the ligaments, muscles and tendons around the joint. Physical therapy is often required for orthopedic patients as a way to improve mobility and increase strength in ankles and feet.

Cortisone is a medication often used to treat such problems as inflammation in the joints.

Arthroscopic surgery involves the orthopedic surgeon putting a small camera in the joint to diagnose the problem so that he or she can remove or repair damages to the ankles or feet.

Finding an orthopedic doctor

If you have a problem with your feet or ankles, you will want to find the right foot and ankle orthopedics doctor to increase the chances of a successful treatment. Several orthopedic doctors will likely work in your area, but you should first consider factors such as office location, appointment and insurance coverage to narrow down your options.

Contact your health insurance carrier to check your coverage for orthopedic care. Depending on your policy, you may need a referral from your primary care physician in order for your policy to pay for treatment. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons should have a list of several orthopedic doctors in your area, which you should check against the directory available from your health insurance company. Carefully research the orthopedic doctors you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings.

Call each office on your list and ask if they are accepting new patients, how long the appointment wait time is and where their office is. Make the appointment with the first doctor on your list, and if you are not comfortable with the doctor or do not feel as though he or she is a good match for your problem, move down the list until you find a doctor you are comfortable with.


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