Foot pain affects 1 in 5 people.
Podiatrist or Physiotherapist? Who Should I See?
Whether it’s hobbling in the morning with heel pain, plantar fasciitis, sharp pain in your feet, aching feet or sore legs, podiatrists and physiotherapists are both dedicated to helping you perform at your best.
But to answer the question of who is the best to see, perhaps we should explore what both podiatrists and physiotherapists do.
What is a Physiotherapist?
A physiotherapist is a person qualified to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders by physical methods such as movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.
Physiotherapy treatment helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life.
What is a Podiatrist?
A Podiatrist is a person dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal, medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs.
Podiatry treatment also helps to repair damage, increase mobility, reduce stiffness, decrease pain, improve muscular efficiency, increase stability and improve quality of life.
And, while there are things a physiotherapist will do that a podiatrist won’t do (basically anything unrelated to the feet and legs), a podiatrist will also help with the following:
• Treatment of ingrown toenails
• Removal of corns, calluses and other painful lesions
• Administration of local anaesthetic when needed
• Gait examination (walking assessment)
• Biomechanical analysis (Joint range of motion & muscle testing)
• Foot mobilisation (for stiff joints)
• Diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders including warts
• Customised foot orthotic prescription when required
• ESWT (shock wave therapy) for foot & leg pain
• Prevention of various foot and leg disorders
Podiatrist or Physiotherapist for Foot Pain?
Given we walk on average of 128,000 km throughout our lifetime (that’s enough to go around the earth 4 times!) and knowing feet are our primary mode of transport, it goes without saying that healthy feet are an important part of your overall well-being
The best outcomes occur when physiotherapists and podiatrists work together for the overall benefit of the client.
Scenario 1: Physio to Podiatrist
If someone rolls their ankle it might be a one-off incident, in which case the protection, management and rehabilitation is often performed by a physiotherapist. That’s why most sports teams have a physiotherapist on their roster.
However, if the same person frequently sprains their ankle, they might be referred by the physiotherapist to a podiatrist to look further into how the foot is working, and other factors that might be contributing to frequent ankle sprains.
The client will normally have a gait examination where their foot mechanics will be analysed and their walking pattern assessed by the podiatrist. Following this, a podiatrist will usually perform a joint range of motion study and carry out some specific muscle testing around the foot, ankle and lower leg.
All this information will enable your podiatrist to prescribe exactly what you need to improve ankle stability and prevent recurrent ankle sprains. Treatment may include specific foot mobilisation, customised strengthening exercises, orthotic therapy and/or specific footwear recommendations to solve the problem.
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Scenario 2: Podiatrist to Physio
A podiatrist who is helping a client with chronic knee pain finds that there are factors from higher up contributing to the pain, such as gluteal weakness, hip rotation issues and core stability problems.
The podiatrist will often refer to the physiotherapist to help uncover the cause of the problem that may be higher up in the body, and prescribe exercises to release and strengthen the area.
Together, the client has a much better chance of a successful outcome.
So, while both physiotherapists and podiatrists will both provide taping for sports injuries, massage, mobilise feet and assess posture and gait, it’s important that your physiotherapist and podiatrist are both working together for the best overall outcome.
Still unclear on who to see?
If you don’t know who to see for your foot or ankle injury, try this general rule:
See your physiotherapist for an acute injury that occurs suddenly where you know the cause (e.g. knee injury playing sport)
See your podiatrist for foot pain, leg pain or ankle injury that persists for longer than a month, doesn’t improve as expected and you don’t know why (e.g. heel pain, plantar fasciitis, foot pain, shin splints or knee pain that persists for longer than a month)See your podiatrist for foot pain, heel pain, ankle soreness and leg pain that persists for longer than a month, doesn't go away and you don't know why. Click To Tweet
Okay so perhaps it’s not supposed to be as simple as that (Angry health professionals alert!)
But contrary to what some might say, in a lot of cases one person cannot do it all.
It’s best when both your physio and podiatrist are working together for your benefit.
Start with who you know. If you already have a podiatrist or physiotherapist, ask them who they think you should see.
Then ask them to recommend the best treatment plan for you.
That’s how you’ll get the best outcome.Ask your health professional to recommend the best treatment plan for you… including who else to see. Click To Tweet
At Posture Podiatry, our podiatrists work together with physiotherapists all over Adelaide to help you get the best outcome.
Where Can I Get Help for My Foot Pain?
We’ll help you find the right solution to alleviate your pain. Terms and conditions apply as detailed below.
*To qualify you will need private health insurance that covers you for podiatry consultations and examination.