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person deciding whether to see a podiatrist or a physiotherapist for foot pain

Should I See a Podiatrist or Physio for Foot Pain?

Foot Pain. Who you gonna call? Your podiatrist or your physio?

For most of us, getting foot pain is a part of life. Sometimes we know why – yes, those heels were worth it. Other times we don’t, it can seem so random, so sporadic, and oh so painful. It might be just a little niggle when you first get up in the morning. Or it might be an ache or burning pain that builds as you exercise. Considering we build our active lives on our feet it doesn’t take long before a little foot pain has a big impact on our lives. So, when that foot pain hits the threshold we all have were we are ready to do something about it. Who should you see? A podiatrist or a physiotherapist?

Let’s bring in two of the PridePlus team. One of our podiatrists Tim Mulholland and one of our physiotherapists Dominic Tan to talk about their profession first, and who you should see for your foot pain.

In the red corner, podiatrist Tim Mulholland.

What actually does a podiatrist do? It’s a question I’ve had asked of me ever since telling my family over dinner as a teen that I wanted to be a podiatrist. Some kids want to be rocket scientists, some kids want to be actors, I knew I wanted to be a podiatrist. For me it started when I had the pleasure of a mentor in the podiatry profession take me to her workplace and show me what a podiatrist did on a daily basis. 

At the time I was enamoured with the care and knowledge that she had, knowing all of those medications and how they act and interact. Those muscle and bone names!

How could any mortal ever remember them all?

Then there was the manual skills, the dexterity to manipulate skin, nail and tissue with a scalpel blade, then 10 minutes later put someone on a treadmill for a running gait analysis. No time to rest because the next client was in the waiting room looking to come in and have a long discussion about the Geelong Footy club’s woes and why isn’t that lovely blonde haired Ablett boy as good as his father? 

Yes, this was many years ago. I was transfixed and knew that podiatry was what I would be doing for a long time to come.

Now that I’ve been a podiatrist for many years I’ve had the absolute honour of helping and working with people from all walks of life. Athlete’s rehabilitating injuries. Children just learning to walk. People unable to reach their own feet to address their own needs. Unfortunate high risk feet where just keeping all 10 toes can be a battle. And every single day, people with foot pain.

Podiatrists do foot pain.

This one should be easy.

Podiatrist’s spend the most amount of time learning about the foot and ankle, what makes them move, what makes them stiff. We learn about pain, about disability, and about building capacity. Podiatrist’s are also shoe guru’s, able to guide you through the process of a shoe that makes your toes work a little more or little less, or which shoes you should use to support your foot just where you need it. Then there’s orthotics, those nifty little load optimisers which can go inside shoes to decrease the work done by sore or overloaded feet.

If your feet are sore you need to see a podiatrist first.

Tim Mulholland – Podiatrist

Dominic, take it away.

In the blue corner, physiotherapist Dom. What exactly does a physiotherapist do?

So physiotherapists do an absolute mountain of work too. A physiotherapist is your go to profession for most injuries to the entire body. With such a broad area to work with, there are many specialisations within physiotherapy, and then even some sub-specialisations as well. For example, there are neuro physios who specialise in rehabilitation post stroke and brain injuries. 

Then there a musculoskeletal physios who look after the bones, muscles, tendon and joint injuries that we can all get. Within this specialisation of musculoskeletal physios there’s further sub sets. There are shoulder musculoskeletal physios, and physios who prefer to work with knees. There’s even some who work predominantly with the foot and ankle…

But… 

There’s not as many foot and ankle physios because this area is serviced so well by podiatrists. I think this is going to be your answer. 

If you have foot pain a physio like myself will be able to get a great general plan in place, but for the specifics a podiatrist is who you should see for foot pain.

Dominic Tan – Physiotherapist

Where I would say a physiotherapist plays an important role with foot pain is assessing and addressing the proximal factors in relation to foot pain. This is the way your hip or bum (gluteal) muscles contract and stabilise your pelvis. Not enough strength here and you can start to lean from side to side when you walk, placing more strain on the outside of your feet.

Your podiatrist would be able to do an excellent job working on the distal or local factors to help settle your foot pain to start, however to keep it from returning those proximal factors aren’t going to fix themselves. That’s we we can come in and work hand in hand with your podiatrist for a really great outcome.

Having podiatrists and physios who work together for foot pain is often where you can get some really great outcomes. When each profession can lean into their area of expertise and allow the other to lean into theirs you can be assured that your foot pain will be holistically managed. 

If you have foot pain then book in with one of our team today.

For our podiatrists you can book here, and if you’re already seeing a podiatrist and need some physiotherapy you can book in with our team in Pascoe Vale here.

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