Mythbusting podiatry

03 Nov 2020 | 2 mins

Did you know podiatrists do lots more than just look at feet? They can perform minor procedures, assess and diagnose foot/ankle conditions and refer people for X-rays. They also work closely with other specialists if a problem affects your feet or lower legs. Some podiatrists further their training with extra qualifications to become a surgeon or to prescribe and dispense drugs.

If you’re having trouble with your feet, you might be tempted to self-diagnose using good old Dr Google. But unfortunately, there are many podiatry-related myths online that should be ignored. We’ve rounded up six of the best and busted them, thanks to the UWA Podiatry team.

1. Podiatrists aren't ‘real’ doctors

Podiatrists are doctors, they just don't go to traditional medical school. They have their own school and professional association. They also have ‘DPM’ (doctor of podiatric medicine) after their names instead of ‘MD’ (medical doctor). Find out more about becoming a podiatrist.

2. Podiatrists don’t perform surgery

Podiatrists can also complete additional training to become foot surgeons, known as podiatric surgeons. General podiatrists can perform minor procedures, such as ingrown nail surgery and wart curettage, and podiatric surgeons are recognised as specialist surgeons under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. They are able to perform reconstructive surgery of the foot, including bunionectomies, neurectomies, tendon lengthening and fracture repair.

3. Only senior citizens need treatment

Foot health is important at all stages of life. Even newborn babies can experience foot problems, so podiatrists are trained to deal with humans of all ages who have feet and legs.

4. Podiatrists only treat feet

Opticians don’t just treat eyeballs the same way dentists don’t just treat teeth. Health professionals treat people who have certain problems, so when podiatrists perform surgery or prescribe medicines, they need to understand the patient, their overall health and past or current experiences. Podiatrists can help ankle, knee and postural issues caused by leg problems. They can also diagnose and treat muscular and neurological problems such as heel pain, shin splints and Morton’s Neuromas.

5. Cutting a ‘V’ in your nail will prevent ingrown nails

This is an old wives’ tale and does not affect nail growth at all. Ingrown nails are caused by incorrect cutting, footwear, toe anatomy and certain skin conditions.

6. Wearing heels causes bunions

While it’s true certain shoe features, such as a narrow shoes or flimsy support, can contribute to secondary symptoms (like nerve compression or bursas), bunions are usually due to an underlying genetic predisposition. Although poor shoes could speed up bunion formation, they are never the primary cause.

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