by Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM MS
You’ve been experiencing heel pain on and off for almost a year and it is still not resolved. Every time you go to a podiatrist you hear the same thing: rest, orthotics and physical therapy – or maybe even surgery. With the advances in medicine, you feel there must be other options to resolve your foot pain.
It is frustrations such as the above which has led to an expanding specialty within medicine called functional medicine.
A functional medicine doctor is like a primary care or internal medicine doctor who approaches patient care differently from traditional western medicine and factors in a whole systems approach. This holistic approach considers the full picture of a patient’s physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes even spiritual health – and they consider factors like diet, genetics, sleep, hormones, and stress levels.
This concept of integrative medicine is now expanding into other medical specialties including podiatry.
Like a functional medicine doctor, a functional podiatrist looks at foot function and foot pathology from an integrative, holistic approach. Full movement assessments and a functional movement screen can be used to identify weaknesses further up the chain which can contribute to foot pain. In addition, diet, hormonal changes, stress levels and other lifestyle components are all assessed to determine if they are contributing to the foot dysfunction.
An evaluation by a functional podiatrist is typically one hour in length and may or may not be reimbursed by insurance.
A Functional Approach to Plantar Fasciitis
Let’s take as an example, the way a functional podiatrist may approach plantar fasciitis. When we walk, run or do any other dynamic movement there is a coordinated relationship between foot stability and core strength. Part of a complete movement assessment for plantar fasciitis should include determining pelvic stability, glute strength and hip mobility. Any delay or weakness in stability around the hips and pelvis can impact the way the foot strikes the ground, and therefore contributing to plantar fascia stress.
If any weakness is identified it would then be recommended to approach the plantar fasciitis with not only foot stretches and foot strengthening exercises, but to also include hip mobilization and core strengthening exercises. This functional approach offer results in improved results for recurrent plantar fasciitis.
Finding a Functional Podiatrist
If you are looking to experience a fresh perspective or be treated by a podiatrist with a integrated approach then consider seeing a functional podiatrist. Although this is not yet a formal credential under podiatry, many podiatrists are seeking outside training to better understand the body holistically.
Read reviews on any doctor you may be interested in seeing and assess whether their approach to foot care matches your needs.