doctor talking to his female patient at office

The ice and heat haven’t helped.

The over-the-counter pain relievers haven’t put a dent in the discomfort.

You know something is seriously wrong with your foot, but you’re reluctant to visit a professional. After all, what if you receive a troublesome diagnosis? What if you need surgery?

That can be a scary enough prospect for some people to put off seeing a foot doctor altogether, even when they really need to.

If you know what to expect when going to a Chicago foot and ankle specialist for the first time, you’ll discover a lot of your fears are unfounded. These specialists want their patients to enjoy a pain-free life, but that typically can’t happen without some form of treatment. This is generally what a first appointment with a specialist is like.

 

1. You Will Discuss Your Medical Background

Your foot and ankle specialist knows very little about you upon your first visit, only what information is provided on your medical records. When you arrive, you should expect to chat about those records and your family background, your lifestyle, your history with chronic pain, and any other factors that could potentially contribute to your foot and ankle problems.

The Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center says patients should anticipate talking about their symptoms, any surgeries they’ve had, any allergies they may have and any medications they’re taking.

Westside Foot and Ankle Specialists in Portland, Oregon, note that patients should inform their specialists if they’re seeing another podiatrist or if they’re pregnant. Westside also recommends bringing any relevant past records, including lab test results and hospital papers.

Your symptoms give the specialist a good idea of what medical condition you may have. However, a foot and ankle specialist will need more conclusive testing to make a full diagnosis, which will be discussed below.

 

2. You Will Receive a Physical Examination

Next, the specialist will likely request a physical exam, notes the Ankle & Foot Specialist of NJ. This is a lot like the standard examination you would receive if you visited your family doctor for a regular checkup.

It’s likely the specialist will closely inspect the ankle and foot, says Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical Center, testing for “blood flow, feeling, sensation and strength. They will identify any area of concern, including deformities such as a bunion or hammertoes, muscle weakness and skin and nail changes.”

Just as with the discussion of your medical background, this physical examination will provide another perspective on what might be causing the pain. However, it may not necessarily paint the whole picture.

lab test

 

3. You May Require Additional Testing

You should expect more tests to narrow down other potential causes of the pain. Common tests a foot and ankle specialist will use to make a diagnosis include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and blood tests. Depending on which test the specialist recommends, and whether the clinic has a lab on-site, you may have to go elsewhere for their medical testing. These tests won’t take all day, though.

Once you are tested, it may take one week or more for the results to come back to the lab. Those results then need to be relayed to the foot and ankle specialist. Your specialist then may decide to call you to discuss the results over the phone, or she may request an in-person appointment.

Meanwhile, you should be very gentle with your sore foot and ankle, resting when possible and using heat or ice to reduce pain as much as possible.

 

4. You Will Receive Some Form of Treatment, Likely That Same Day

Even if your specialist decides you need further testing to make a diagnosis, she won’t let you leave without something for the pain. She may prescribe a stronger pain reliever or make other suggestions for pain relief. She also may advise that you buy more comfortable shoes, braces or other orthotic aids.

If your specialist can make a diagnosis that same day, she will come up with a treatment plan before you leave. This may include a combination of medication and physical therapy or other types of therapy. In the case of a strain, sprain or break, you will need a cast or bandage to heal. You may also require crutches to get around until the foot or ankle fully recovers.

Surgery is typically only required in the rarest of cases. If your joints or nerves are affected by their condition, you may need surgery. If your specialist has tried all other treatment options and nothing has reduced the pain, an operation may be the answer.

Some conditions that affect the feet, such as bunions, may require minimal outpatient surgery. Your foot and ankle specialist can typically perform this procedure, or she may call in a podiatric surgeon. This is typically not intensive, and you can often go right home after the surgery.

Of course, regardless of which type of surgery you need, you may be nervous. Don’t worry; your specialist will fully discuss all aspects of the surgery before it happens, such as what the procedure entails, how long it takes, a timeframe for recovery, and whether there are any complications to be aware of.

packets of pills

 

5. You Will Get the Chance to Ask Questions

Westside Foot and Ankle Specialists recommend grabbing a notebook and jotting down pertinent information before your appointment. At this time, make sure to write down any questions for your specialist. Once you’re at the office, you may not remember what you wanted to ask. As the appointment is wrapping up, this is the ideal time to bring up questions.

Never be embarrassed to request clarification from your specialist. Speak up if you don’t know what a term means. You may want to jot down what the specialist says throughout the appointment, Westside recommends. If you’re curious about a medication you’ve been prescribed, open a dialogue about its ingredients and side effects.

Once you’re done, you will likely have to see your foot and ankle specialist again in a few weeks to discuss your progress. You can make the appointment while you’re still at the office or call and do it later.

Overall, although it can seem a little scary to see a specialist about foot and ankle pain, doing so is the first step to treating that pain and finally feeling better.

 

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