Preventive Foot Health: What it Means for Patients
Many healthcare professionals may not realize how important it is for their patients to take care of their feet. According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment conducted for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health by the NPD Group, more than 50 percent of people with diabetes—whose feet are at particular risk of ulceration and, ultimately, amputation—do not receive a regular foot screening, and only 11 percent are properly measured and fitted when they go to purchase new shoes.
At a time when diabetes rates are rising dramatically, these are troubling statistics. But it is not just people with diabetes who need foot care. People with other conditions that affect blood flow to the extremities—peripheral artery disease (PAD), for example—require close attention to their feet.
Healthy people also need to practice preventive foot health. Feet are the foundation of mobility and are vital for optimal functioning and engaging in physical activity. Good foot health truly is the cornerstone for health and well being.
Despite its importance, preventive foot health usually is not a major focus for most health care providers. However, health insurance companies and health care settings increasingly are emphasizing preventive strategies, particularly for people at risk. Preventive foot health should be among them. Here’s why:
Foot problems can create problems in other parts of the “kinetic chain.” The musculoskeletal system is an integral and interdependent system. Problems with the feet and/or with biomechanics can create problems in the ankles, which in turn can create issues in the knees, moving up to the hips, and all the way up the spine to the neck and shoulders. Preventing the originating foot issues can often prevent issues further up the kinetic chain.
Foot problems can lead to functional problems. A person’s quality of life is directly related to the ability to be self-sufficient—capable of doing activities of daily living such as walking, shopping, visiting friends and family, working and playing. If your patients’ feet hurt or they have other chronic foot problems, their ability to function optimally is compromised. For example, if a person modifies his/her gait to avoid a painful bunion, posture and balance will be affected, making that person more vulnerable to falling.
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