physician treating foot and ankle painFoot and Ankle Health Q&A with Dr. Cottom

We spend a lot of time bearing weight on our lower extremities, so it’s no surprise that foot and ankle pain becomes a common problem with age. If you’re experiencing pain in your feet and ankles, James Cottom, DPM, FACFAS a foot and ankle specialist at Florida Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Center, provides helpful answers to your questions and concerns.

What are the most common ankle issues?

Not all ankle pain is created equal. Some pain may be due to wear and tear on the tendons and joints, arthritis or traumatic injury. The most common kinds of ankle pain that Dr. Cottom treats are ankle sprains, Achilles tendon pain and cases of arthritis. Sprain injuries are typically caused by twisting or inversion to the ankle, and often occur with a sudden fall, a misplaced step or other trauma. Chronic pain, on the other hand, can often be a sign of arthritis.

However, telling the difference between the types of foot and ankle pain can be challenging. The foot and ankle alone consist of 28 bones and 33 joints, not to mention muscles, tendons and ligaments. This makes it especially important to properly evaluate each patient. “For serious cases of pain or discomfort, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary beyond X-rays and a physical exam,” Dr. Cottom says.

How do I keep my feet and ankles healthy and pain-free?

We bear weight on our feet and ankles every day – whether we’re at work, exercising or standing in line at the store. According to Dr. Cottom, maintaining foot and ankle health can be as simple as seeing a specialist when you’re first experiencing an issue. “It is often very easy to calm most pain or injuries down if we get to treat them right away,” he says. “We want to avoid chronic injuries and often, in these situations, more extensive treatment may be warranted.”

In most cases, Dr. Cottom prefers to explore all available options before turning toward surgery. We like to start with conservative, in-office treatment in almost all situations,” he says. “If a patient does not respond to that treatment, then we have the option of looking into something more involved.”

What should I look for in a specialist?

“When deciding on a foot and ankle specialist, I would encourage patients to look for a physician with fellowship experience,” says Dr. Cottom. “A fellowship is unique in that the physician completed extra training in foot and ankle treatment, including surgery. There’s a low percentage of foot and ankle physicians who have actually completed a fellowship after residency training.” Dr. Cottom completed a yearlong orthopedic foot and ankle fellowship at the prestigious Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Center in Columbus, Ohio, under the mentorship of orthopedic/podiatric foot and ankle surgeons.

Do yourself, and your lower extremities, a favor by looking out for foot and ankle pain — and if it starts, see a specialist. The rest of your body will thank you.