Look Out Below, and Put Your Feet First!

HikingPacMed’s podiatry team is your partner in finding solutions to foot and ankle pain.

WHEN SOMETHING HURTS—a knee, a shoulder, the stomach—you go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong. Yet many people live with foot pain as if it were a necessary fact of life.

“A lot of people just accept foot pain as part of getting older,” says Dr. Gregory Grant of Pacific Medical Centers’ podiatry clinic. “Not true! It’s a little like a bad mattress: even though it’s served you well for 25 years, you don’t need to sleep poorly.” Same with your feet: foot or ankle pain warrants medical care.

With 26 bones, the foot is a complicated, critical body part that calls for a unique level of care. The foot is neglected not just by patients; it’s often neglected by doctors. That’s why it’s important to see a foot and ankle specialist who can discern whether the pain is a simple problem, with a simple fix, or something more complicated that requires surgery.

Dr. Grant and partner PacMed podiatrist Dr. Kirk Alexander emphasize the level of personal, individualized care afforded by a podiatry specialist. “Dr. Grant and I both work pretty hard to get an accurate diagnosis and a thorough workup,” Dr. Alexander says. “We then modify the treatment plan based on the patient’s life. If they’re a runner, that might change the surgical plan. We really need to know about their lifestyle and their goals to make a plan for what they’re doing.”

Ever told yourself, “Oh, it’s just a sprain”? Dr. Grant points out that ankle sprains are a common misdiagnosis. If you’ve had pain for two or three weeks, he says it’s time to get checked out.

We modify the treatment plan based on the patient’s life. We really need to know about their lifestyle and their goals to make a plan for what they’re doing.

“My patients will often tell me, ‘I sprained my ankle and it never got better,’” he explains. “It’s not a sprain; it’s a torn tendon. If it’s not getting better, you should get it checked out. And if the ligament is torn, it’s going to wear out faster”—yet another reason to seek treatment. Not all ankle sprains are created equal, and a tendon rupture won’t show up on an X-ray. “Usually, by the time they get to me,” adds Dr. Grant, “it’s a serious sprain. A grade-three sprain needs a cast.”

Typical issues that the PacMed podiatry team sees are bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, and fractures. They also frequently handle diabetic foot care, tendon ruptures, and ankle sprains.

It’s not uncommon for people to overlook their feet when searching for pain solutions. “One of the things we see periodically is someone who lives with chronic pain—say, arthritis,” Dr. Alexander says. “They live with it for two to five years, and we are able to solve it. Then they say, ‘I should have done this five years ago! I had a hard time walking across my living room for the past couple of years, and now I can walk around the block or go to the park.’” Dr. Alexander finds improving a patient’s day-to-day experience rewarding.

They also support patients who may be wary of seeking medical attention—and insurance—for a seemingly minor problem. “You want an advocate,” Dr. Grant says. “I can explain to insurance why this needs to be done. Our office understands how to make this process easier for you.”

Dr. Grant finds his work personally satisfying. “The foot and hand are intricate details that, a lot of times, get skipped over,” he says. “I’m probably not going to save a lot of lives in my career, but hopefully I’ll make a lot of lives better.”