New doctor helps patients get back on their feet — footloose and fancy
Six months pregnant and otherwise feeling fine, Gloria suffered agonizing pain in the arch of her feet as though her ligaments were stretched tight as rubber bands — painful enough for her to cease her morning jogs around the park and make an appointment with a podiatrist, a specialty doctor who treats ankles and feet.
The ground floor of Penn Plaza welcomed a new podiatrist this summer, Dr. David Ball — a specialist for children and adults who is also fluent in Spanish. “We’re excited to explore around here,” Ball says of Roswell after being in Utah and then Ohio. “I’m a big outdoors guy.”
As a fan of the outdoors, Ball appreciates how foot pain is more than a painful annoyance. Pain deprives people of activities they love, like strolling around the park and saying hello to other people’s dogs and occasionally their humans. “You don’t realize how important your feet are until you’re hurt and you can’t get around.”
Ball usually first encounters patients when they’re experiencing pain, numbness or injury. In Gloria’s case, pregnancy hormones and baby weight have weakened her feet, and now she has plantar fasciitis, which turns out to be a common concern and not just for pregnant people.
At her appointment, Gloria learns the plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous, ligament-like band that runs along the bottom of the foot that can become swollen or irritated. Another common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel of the foot.
In addition to treating plantar fasciitis, Ball sees patients for sports injuries, fractures, flat feet and other problems associated with the foot and lower leg. He has expertise in the treatment of complex foot and ankle disorders.
Ball agrees that problems of the foot and ankle, left untreated, can cause other problems — like missing out on exercise, beneficial for the body and mind, or not being able to drive yourself to work. No one likes to feel confined, and if you don’t have healthy feet, you lose aspects of mobility.
The good news is we can take care of our feet before problems start. “I always recommend a supportive athletic shoe.” Ball wears black and white Brooks running shoes with solid arch support. “If you have a unique foot type like flat foot or high arch, it’s good to get some extra support with an insert or a custom orthotic to keep your ligaments and bony structures supported.”
This reporter’s canvas slip-ons were deemed “not the greatest” — no arch support — though Ball did reluctantly agree the white glitter sneaks with a hole in the toe were “pretty cool.” He is a kind and active listener who treats patients with care — even when they’re attempting pointless humor about the cool factor of their shoes.
Fashion sometimes gets in the way of taking care of our feet, as any woman who’s worn heels to a wedding and then either kicked them off and danced barefoot or watched the dance floor with envy knows. Heels might make your legs look great, but even Carrie Bradshaw relishes the moment when she comes home and kicks off her stilettos. Clogs would be a better option for achieving height without teetering suspiciously down the sidewalk in your heels, risking a fall.
High heels and pointy-toed shoes can lead to bunions, a bony bump that forms at the joint of the base of your big toe. As a foot surgeon, Ball might recommend a bunionectomy, though in general, he has a conservative approach and resorts to surgical interventions only when necessary.
For sandals, Ball recommends Birkenstocks and Chacos. “It’s hot, so people like to wear sandals, but a lot of sandals don’t offer much support.” The colorful foam flip-flops you bought on clearance could lead to foot pain or injury — those are best saved for protecting your feet when you’re using a public locker room.
A typical visit to a podiatrist involves a conversation and then an assessment. “I may have them walk down the hallway to see their gait and how they’re walking,” Ball says. “I’ll see if they can do different exercises with their feet. If I need to, I’ll get an X-ray.”
His orthopedic group has three patient rooms, X-ray and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, and a space for physical therapy. “We are a one-stop shop for most musculoskeletal problems.”
People with diabetes should see a podiatrist yearly to ensure good sensation in the feet. Numbness or tingling can make a person vulnerable to wounds. “You’re more immunocompromised when you’re diabetic,” Ball adds, “so you may develop funguses on your feet.” A yearly check-up with a podiatrist is a good opportunity to receive diabetic foot education.
Hygiene for the feet is also important. “If you have dry feet, put lotion on after a shower.” If your feet sweat a lot, bring an extra pair of socks with you to change them halfway through the day. “Changing your socks prevents a lot of bacteria and fungus.” Clipping one's toenails can be difficult in old age — if you care for an elderly parent, be sure to check their feet, often a site of neglect.
In general, taking care of our feet means we can continue to enjoy an active life. Just ask Gloria, who has returned to running and greeting friends at the park — now with a stroller in tow.
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