A podiatrist is a health care professional specialising in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and discomfort of the lower limb. They are able to diagnose through the use of clinical observation and biomechanical assessment.
Some areas in which podiatrists may develop a special interest include:
- Sports medicine
Any sport that involves greater physical demands on our body than normal everyday activities, has the potential to cause injuries to the foot and lower limb. Podiatrists have extensive knowledge of foot mechanics to diagnose foot conditions and provide training regimens, recommend appropriate footwear and if need be prescribe orthotic devices to facilitate the healing of injuries. Common sporting injuries include Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, stress fractures and shin or knee pain.
Children’s foot shape is not finally determined until growth terminates at the end of the second decade of life. Podiatrists diagnose and treat children’s foot problems by careful examination of the foot and lower limb, where required. They can advise patients on the importance of prevention or reduction of foot deformity which often develops later in adult life.
Podiatrists are qualified to perform both nail and skin surgery, but some have undertaken further education to perform additional foot surgery.
Orthoses are devises that sit in your shoes made specifically to reduce a foot pathology. The prescription and manufacture of orthoses is an important part of podiatric practice. A podiatrist is trained in the manufacturing techniques for a range of shoe inserts.
Foot problems can arise as the result of standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time. Some professionals are more likely to develop long-term problems unless preventative measures are taken. Podiatrists seek to address some of the issues responsible for foot problems and can advise on occupational foot health and safety. This can sometimes involve the prescription of orthoses, or surgical advice and referral.
Podiatrists work in conjunction with Physiotherapists, Foot Surgeons, GPs and Orthotic laboratories to advise the right treatment for your feet. Referrals for ultrasound, radiography and microbiology are occasionally required and they can refer to other health professionals if needed.
To be a qualified podiatrist you need a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Podiatry from either Auckland University of Technology, or an overseas qualification recognised by the Podiatrists Board of New Zealand.
Anyone who wishes to practice in New Zealand as a podiatrist, must hold a current Annual Practicing Certificate (APC) and be registered with the Board of New Zealand.