Survey Suggests Obesity May Cause Foot Problems

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Obesity and Foot

Obesity may lead to foot problems according to a survey presented at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) Annual Summer Meeting here today. Over 6,000 individuals responded to the survey, which was conducted on the Society's public education website, FootCareMD.com.

The survey, conducted by the AOFAS Public Education Committee, found that foot and ankle problems can be linked to an individual's weight and body mass index ( BMI ). Individuals who responded to the survey and reported current foot and ankle pain, who had prior foot surgery or who had previously seen a physician about foot and ankle pain, all seemed to have a higher BMI than those who did not report pain. Furthermore, 40.8 percent of the respondents reported weight gain prior to the onset of pain.

"It is important for the public to know that obesity isn't just an aesthetic issue, but a contributing cause of musculoskeletal health problems, specifically with the feet and ankles," said Stuart D. Miller, M.D., Baltimore, MD, a member of the AOFAS Public Education Committee.

The survey asked 6157 respondents, with the mean age of 34.5 years and average body mass index ( BMI ) of 27.9 kg/m2, about foot and ankle problems. People with the BMI of 18.5 - 24.9 kg/m2 are classified as normal, 25.0 - 29.9 kg/m2 are considered overweight and above 30.0 kg/m2 are obese.

While problems vary from patient to patient, foot and ankle pain often occurs in weight bearing areas, as well as in the tendons and ligaments. Common foot problems include posterior tibial tendonitis, pain in the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and the foot; plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in the thick ligamentous connective tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot; and hindfoot arthritis, an inflammation in the back part of the foot.

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"In general, people carry approximately four to six times their body weight across the ankle joint when climbing up stairs or walking steep inclines. Obesity may significantly increase the impact," explained Dr. Miller. Increased BMI has also been found to increase foot pressures with standing and walking, and is no doubt a precursor to foot and ankle pain.

The survey also uncovered some differences between the sexes. Among respondents, women were more likely to see a physician for foot pain and more likely to change their shoes based on physician's advice. Similarly, more women underwent foot and ankle surgery than men. Men, however, more often claimed a specific injury as the cause of pain and were more likely to wear orthotic inserts in their shoes.

The AOFAS is the leading professional organization for orthopaedic surgeons specializing in disorders of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors with extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of the musculoskeletal system that includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves.

The data was analyzed and study formalized in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the foremost centers for orthopaedic foot and ankle surgery in the country. Other members of the Public Education Committee include the Chair, Sharon M. Dreeben, M.D., La Jolla CA; Avrill R. Berkman, M.D., Clifton, NJ; Timothy Beals, Salt Lake City, UT; Osaretin B. Idusuyi, M.D., Springfield, IL; Nancy J. Kadel, M.D., Seattle, WA; and David H. Kim, M.D., Denver, CO.

The AOFAS Annual Summer Meeting is being held July 15-17, at the Westin, Copley Place, Boston.

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) http://www.aofas.org

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