Post polio syndrome – a condition that can strike years after you recover from polio – often causes problems with the feet. Polio is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system; therefore, symptoms can reappear decades after the initial infection. Muscle and joint pain, muscle weakness, and spinal and foot deformities are common symptoms of post polio syndrome. That's why it's important to learn more about the postural changes and feet problems polio can cause.
Different size feet. Polio can cause the feet to be different sizes, especially if the disease affects only one side of the body. Muscle atrophy can affect foot size, and when one foot is shorter or more narrow than the other, you can have a problem fitting shoes. Improperly fitted shoes can lead to all different kinds of foot problems that affect the toes and bones, joints, and connective tissues of the foot.
Often, polio that affects one side also can cause one leg to be shorter than the other. Special insoles and heel lifts your doctor recommends may prevent additional medical problems that a shorter leg length can cause.
Hammertoes. Toes that are bent downward are a common condition seen in individuals with post polio syndrome. This particular toe deformity can cause foot pain under the bent toes and/or pain at the top of the bent toes when wearing shoes.
High arch. Post polio syndrome can cause a high arch, which places extra weight on the ball and heel of the foot when you walk or stand. If you have a high arch, wearing footwear with extra cushioning can provide better shock absorption and stability.
Foot turns inward. Known as forefoot valgus, the condition causes the outside of the foot to be higher off the ground than the inside of the foot when walking. This places the foot in an unstable position, particularly when walking on uneven surfaces. Forefoot valgus puts more pressure on the first metatarsal bone located just behind the big toe.
Heel turns outward. When this happens, individuals tend to walk on the outside of the foot, which puts more pressure on the heel area. Known as varus heel, the condition puts added pressure on the fifth metatarsal bone that connects to the little toe; can cause an excessively high arch; and may even affect the outside of the knee.
Drop foot. Muscle weakness can lead to the lack of muscle control in the foot. Because drop foot impairs your ability to lift the front part of your foot, your foot drags when you walk. You may try to compensate by lifting your knee higher when you walk, which can wear on your physically. Non-surgical treatment options include:
Physical therapy to strengthen leg muscles and increase flexibility
Braces and splints to support your lower leg and help improve your gait
Electrical stimulation to target the foot muscles that need to move
Loss of sensation. Severe cases of polio can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet. Foot numbness can occur in one or both feet and include loss of feeling in the toes.
While many foot conditions cause pain and interfere with the way you walk, any of the foot problems associated with post polio syndrome can make you more unstable on your feet, increasing the risk of falls. Biomechanical problems in the feet due to abnormal alignment or deformities of the toes, foot, and ankle as the result of polio also can cause nerve compression problems, chronic tendinitis, or arthritis in a joint.
To learn more, contact a podiatrist like Jeffrey M Marks DPM.Share
22 March 2016
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