If you have Parkinson's disease you may develop problems with your feet as a result of changes to your gait, posture and circulation. Additionally, you may find it difficult to bend over and carry out basic foot care such as trimming your nails if you experience muscle stiffness and dizziness as symptoms of your illness. Here's an overview of three common Parkinson's-related foot conditions and the associated podiatric treatment options:
Your gait, the pattern of how you walk, often changes when you have Parkinson's disease as problems with muscle coordination and stiffness cause you to take shorter strides and shuffle your feet more often than you take full heel-to-toe steps. This change in gait can put too much stress on the tendons and muscles in your feet and cause you to develop flat feet, which can lead to pain and swelling after short periods of standing or walking.
Your podiatrist can measure your feet for custom-made orthotic insoles, which can alter the way your weight is distributed across your feet. They can be made to take the pressure off stretched tendons and give extra support to the arches of your feet, which will reduce foot pain by keeping your feet aligned correctly.
Dystonia With Toe-Curling
People with Parkinson's are prone to muscle spasms, known as dystonia, and when the muscles in your feet contract involuntarily your Achilles tendon can tighten. A tight Achilles tendon can cause calf pain and reduce the flexibility of your foot. Dystonia can also cause your toes to curl inwards due to the tightening of the muscles in your feet.
Your podiatrist can teach you how to do simple foot exercises at home to reduce muscle stiffness and promote flexibility. Common exercises for this include rotating your feet, flexing your toes and foot extensions, which can all be done from a seated position. They can also give you toe splints to encourage curling toes to straighten. The splints consist of a thin rubber base that sits under your toes and soft material that fits over your toes and tightens to hold them in a straight position.
The slowness of movement that goes hand-in-hand with Parkinson's can reduce circulation to your feet, which can lead to swelling as a result of fluid pooling in your feet. Blood is propelled along your veins from your feet towards your heart when your leg muscles contract, so lack of movement or shuffling your feet to move around can leave your feet feeling heavy and too swollen for your shoes.
Your podiatrist can massage your feet to encourage the excess fluid to disperse and move upwards. They can also show you or a family member how to massage your feet at home and give you advice on choosing comfortable, supportive shoes you can adjust.
If you're concerned about the health of your feet or are struggling to keep your feet in good condition, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist for a thorough foot exam.