March is National Women’s History month

What started as the first International Women’s Day in 1911 has since been expanded to cover an entire month which is designated forwoman stretching holding feet celebrating the contributions of women in history. The month of March recognizes the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Harriet Tubman – the list goes on! In more recent years, women are still making waves as they work to make the world a better place. In the world of podiatry, women have been very involved and recognized for longer than you may realize.

Rose M. Stivers completed he degree in chiropody in 1917 and then practiced until 1974. She so enjoyed and believed in the profession that she encouraged her husband (formally a traveling salemen) to pursue the profession. She also sent her sister and two brothers as well as her children all through podiatry school as well. She is responsible for eleven podiatrists in the early 1900’s and so certainly impacted our profession for both men and women.

antique medicine bottlesLet us not overlook the word in the paragraph above that many people may not be familiar with. Chiropody is the term for the profession that podiatry began as a very long time ago in the US. Chiropody has evolved over decades into the profession today. Also, in the UK, foot specialists are still termed chiropodists.  Until the 20th century, chiropodists were separate from organized medicine. They were independently licensed physicians who treated foot, ankle and related leg structures. Practitioners educated in the US obtained a degree of Doctor of Surgical Chiropody from the beginning of the Second World War and by the late 1960’s all schools had changed their names to podiatry and the degree graduates completed was Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.

Recently,
the first female was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Aware in podiatry. Last year, in 2020, Stephanie Wu was recognized for her work in limb preservation and treatment of diabetic wounds. She serves not only her patients but also the students at Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in North Chicago IL, where she teaches clinical skills. She uses cutting-edge technologies including tissue, bone and blood supply regeneration with the use of adult stem cells and grafts grown in labs.

Podiatry is a wonderful profession for women for a variety of reasons. There is an opportunity to subspecialize and varying degrees ofperson having hard time stepping out of bed involvement available academically as well. As Dr. Wu did, some podiatrists specialize in diabetic wounds and limb salvage. Others can choose to specialize in surgical reconstruction of the foot and ankle. While others may focus their attention on the conservative treatment of foot conditions through the use of office procedures and custom orthotics.

There are also some special considerations when it comes to treatment of women’s feet.

While female and male alike can suffer injury, women are more prone to certain injuries at various stages in their life. During pregnancy for example, there are changes in foot structure and stability due to hormonal changes. There is also the challenge of a quick increase in weight over a short period of time. Oh, and then there is swelling.

baby's feetWhen it comes to relaxin, the hormone which increases laxity of ligaments in preparation of delivering a baby, it doesn’t just pick one part of the body as a target. For this reason, it is not uncommon for women to notice an increase in their shoe size after a pregnancy. It can also make one more inclined to sprain their ankle and develop pain in the form of tendinitis in their feet due to the compensation.

Pregnancy is the most natural way to gain weight in a short time frame, but that doesn’t mean gaining weight in a short time frame is normal. Our bones strengthen as we use them. Increasing weight slowly, the bones can typically get stronger as the demand increases. In many cases, this happens too quickly with pregnancy for our bones to keep up and when the stress on the bones surpasses their recovery and strengthening time, stress fractures often result. This is very common and requires immobilization and protection to allow the bone to heal so that it does not become a through-and-through fracture that is more unstable.

Swelling in the legs and feet from retained water is due to hormonal changes as well as pressure that baby places on the vascular systemback of legs with dark veins centrally. When your feet and legs swell, it can be uncomfortable and cause you to feel fatigued in the feet and ankles. Additionally it can make shoes tighter than they used to be which puts more pressure on the skin and the toenails. Ingrown toenails, fungal infections of the skin, blisters and calluses can all come as a result of this.

To combat some of these unpleasant side effects of pregnancy, I have a few recommendations.

When it comes to your feet, it is always key to provide the support and shock absorption needed to give your anatomy the best chance at staying healthy. Even if you aren’t running when you are pregnant, wearing running shoes or at least sturdy walking shoes will help to keep balance and stability and reduce injury. In addition, the shock absorption offered reduced the stress on the bones and reduced likelihood of developing stress fractures. Goodness, they also tend to have more room for any swollen feet or toes.

feet up in the airFor swelling,

as uncool as it sounds, compression stockings can be greatly helpful. The compression helps the veins to become less distended or stretched from the extra fluid. Your feet and legs will feel less tired and you will have a lower likelihood of developing varicose and spider veins.  Elevating your feet when you are at rest also lets gravity assist in the fluid getting back up into circulation. Keeping well hydrated also helps immensely. As you stay better hydrated, you are also less likely to develop cramping in legs and feet that can be common during pregnancy.

Another not-so-awesome thing about hormonal changes in women is that our bones can get weaker and softer as we age. Osteopenia and osteoporosis lead to fractures in the feet, but of greater concern is hip fractures which can have devastating complications such as the development of blood clots. Supplementation may be recommended by your doctor if your bones get weaker as you age. Consistent and smart exercise helps to let the bones know you are still using them and keeps them stronger.

So now that I’ve covered all the unpleasantries of women’s feet, we should be positive!
Let’s talk a bit about all the things we CAN do. Anything. Truly, we can do anything we choose to. In some instances it may be more challenging, but the possibility is there. We are so blessed to have opportunities to become whatever type of professional we want. We can take on the challenge of devoting our full time to raising children. This daunting job comes with no paycheck and less recognition than it deserves, yet so many choose gracefully to do accept it.

 

Coming full circle, when it comes to our feet, you have more control than you may realize in how long and how well our feet will serve us as we get older. Take care of yourself! Corny as it may sound, the best we can take care of anyone else is if we make sure to take care of ourselves too. Don’t put yourself on the backburner. Don’t buy the cheap shoes or wear the flat flip flops. Invest in yourself and your feet with good shoes, supportive sandals for around the house. Take the time a few times a week to be active and get some energy and stress out. If you feel like you may have already let yourself go, the great news is that today is a new day and you can start working on yourself and your goals any time. Be persistent. If you have pain in your feet or your ankles that’s keeping you from pursuing activities or goals, call our office. We have all been there. We have all gone through an injury or condition that set us back. We know where you are coming from and we know how to help you.

 

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