Chiropody is the branch of medicine that addresses conditions of the foot and ankle. Doctors trained in chiropody are known as chiropodists, although they’re also sometimes referred to as podiatrists. Most conditions that affect the skin, nails, or mechanics of the foot and ankle can be treated by a chiropodist. These include ingrown toenails and verrucas. Depending on the condition, treatment for foot problems often involves topical or oral medication as well as surgery or biomechanical correction.
Chiropodists are often known as foot doctors, although they are also capable of treating conditions of the lower limbs. This is due to the strong affect that a foot’s mechanics can have on the rest of the body. To become a chiropodist, an individual must enter and graduate from medical school with a specialization in foot conditions. Chiropody is sometimes known as podiatry depending on the country, and the terms are often used interchangeably.
There are a number of conditions that can affect the feet; as a result, chiropody requires a wide range of knowledge on the part of the practitioner. Issues with the skin and nails, such as blisters or ingrown toenails, are among the most common foot complaints. Chiropody also treats biomechanical problems of the foot such as overpronation, i.e., a condition in which the ankle and foot rolls inward while walking. Verrucas, otherwise known as warts, is another common disorder treated by a chiropodist.
Chiropody treatment varies depending on the condition. If the patient has a skin problem, for example, then medication may be all that needs to be prescribed. For foot injuries and biomechanical problems, orthotics or even surgery might be needed, however. Orthotics are shoe inserts which help to correct problems with the foot biomechanics by providing support to the arch. Those with diabetes are often considered priority patients by chiropodists because the disease can put them at greater risk of serious foot complications.
The benefits of chiropody are not merely limited to conditions directly affecting the feet. Some conditions of the lower limbs can be treated by a foot doctor. If, for example, a person suffers from poor knee tracking due to inward rolling ankles, then a chiropodist may be required to make custom-fitted orthotics to fix the problem. Athletes are also often referred to a doctor trained in chiropody to assess foot and ankle mechanics because early correction can reduce the chance of a future injury.