What is “Whole Body Podiatry”?

by Dr. Jackie Sutera


“Whole Body Podiatry” is how I like to describe my holistic approach to foot care. In my practice and career, I have had the opportunity to treat and talk through ailments and help my patients understand how podiatric issues relate to their overall health. Oftentimes, foot pain is connected to other parts of the body, and not just the foot.  

The foot has the ability to compensate for the rest of the skeleton and that is why the feet are known to be the “foundation”. Without a strong and healthy foundation, ankles, knees, hip, back and the neck can be affected negatively. Besides skeletal health, feet can also tell you a lot about what is going on higher up and inside. Diabetes, skin conditions, heart conditions, obesity, alcoholism, muscular disorders, neurological disorders, aging, bone density, strokes, respiratory conditions, injury, vascular diseases, to name a few- all have presentations in the feet!

Daily, I bring certain findings to the attention of patients who were seeing me for something else.  As a podiatrist, I am proud to be part of a team approach for the health of my patients. I have a very strong network of colleagues and specialists who I trust with my patient’s care. I often refer my patients for further evaluation after picking up on subtleties that have either been missed, ignored or neglected. 

An example of how I practice “whole body podiatry” is during a visit with a patient who would present for pain after running and would typically need treatment for a tendonitis. All my patients get a full podiatric exam during which, not only do I focus on the chief complaint but I also evaluate both lower extremities, entirely. I break my exam down by systems: ORTHOPEDIC, VASCULAR, DERMATOLOGIC, NEUROLOGICAL. I examine the way my patients walk and stand, I examine shoes inside and out, and ask many questions. Here are some additional examples:  

  • If I notice green detaching toenails, peeling smelly skin, warts, or asymmetric leg swelling, I bring it up and address it. These can be signs of skin infections, or in the case of leg swelling, vascular disease or congestive heart failure. 
  • Someone who comes in for painful bunions, upon x-ray examination, I can see they have undiagnosed and untreated osteoporosis.  
  • Women who have stress fractures are usually low in Vitamin D.  
  • Losing sensation in feet can be a sign of diabetes.  
  • Numbness can be caused by a pinched nerve in the back, from sciatica or nerve damage after an accident.  
  • Cold toes that turn blue can be a vascular issue.    

I am so passionate about my life’s work and never pass on an opportunity to make a true difference!

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