The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

When to See a Doctor for a Foot Injury: Five Conditions You Shouldn’t Treat Yourself

Posted by on Friday, January 12th, 2018


It’s human nature to resist going to the doctor; we get it. The visit may seem like a hassle and besides, bodies are built to repair themselves, right? It’s possible a New York City foot and ankle specialist will send you home with “RICE” advice—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—things you could’ve easily done for yourself at home. However, there are a few seemingly “small” injuries that frequently turn into huge pains for our patients if they are not cared for properly early on. So, if you’re wondering when to see a doctor for foot injuries, here are five foot and ankle conditions you definitely shouldn’t try to treat at home.

Treating foot injuries on your own can lead to long-term complications.
Treating foot injuries on your own can lead to long-term complications. Image Source: Unsplash user Matheus Vinicius.

1. Blisters

What’s the big deal about a little blister? Well, any podiatrist will tell you there is an underground network of “pickers” and “poppers” out there who cause loads of damage trying to DIY their own healthcare. Popping a blister can allow bacteria into the body and cause widespread infection. Cellulitis and sepsis can be life-threatening. It’s far better to cover a blister with antibiotic ointment and a bandage until you can see a doctor.

How an NYC Podiatrist Can Help: The best pain relief occurs when we drain the blister within the first 24-36 hours. We leave the top protective layer of the blister intact, applying a thin hydrocolloid dressing beneath a gauze compression wrap.

2. Toenail Bruise

Runners especially suffer from black toenails, which appear to be run-of-the-mill bruises. While it’s true that most black toenails do not require aspiration, they often result from serious nail trauma. The most common culprit is poorly-fitted shoes. If left untreated, the nail bed can weaken so much that the nail falls off, leaving you susceptible to infection.

How an NYC Podiatrist Can Help: We’ll drain the fluid out if there is a large subungal hematoma that is painful and tender.

3. Ankle Sprain

You stumble, your ankle swells up, and there’s pain. Yet, we all know sprained ankles don’t require surgery, so what help is there? According to the Ottawa Ankle Rules, if your ankle is tender to the touch and you are unable to take four steps, then it’s best to get radiographs taken to assess the amount of damage. Ice and rest are not always enough. Many patients find themselves with chronic ankle weakness and repeated sprains if the initial injury doesn’t heal properly.

How an NYC Podiatrist Can Help: First of all, we’ll take the necessary imaging to see how badly you’ve hurt yourself. From there, we usually put you into a walking boot or air cast to take the load off. Guided rehabilitative physical therapy will be necessary to preserve range of motion and build up your strength.

4. Arch Pain

Sometimes stretching and deep tissue massage resolves muscle pain. You shouldn’t have to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for more than a day or two following a workout. It’s best to get underlying issues checked out to avoid falling into a perpetual cycle of aches and pains that you can’t beat.

How an NYC Podiatrist Can Help: Arch pain is often related to small tears in the plantar fascia tissue running across the middle underside of the foot. This is one of the more common foot conditions we treat. We have seen excellent results with Extracorporeal Shockwave therapy, which can have you back to routine activities within three months, rather than the usual six.

5. Mid-Foot Pain

A Lisfranc fracture resulting from a small ligament tear can be difficult to diagnose. Often, it’s mislabeled as a run-of-the-mill “sprain.” In the event of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, a Lisfranc injury can lead to compromised blood supply or long-term instability. No one wants to end up with post-traumatic arthritis, so it’s best to seek care beyond rest and ice.

How an NYC Podiatrist Can Help: A mild or moderate injury can be treated with immobilization in a boot or short-leg walking cast for 4-6 weeks. From there, we recommend progressive rehabilitation exercises. Severe injuries require stabilizing K-wire surgery within the first 12-24 hours of injury. Well-molded orthotics can help offload pressure from the recovering foot.

While it may be tempting to stay at home when you find yourself with a foot or ankle injury, it’s imperative that you seek professional care when needed. It’s smart to err on the side of caution because, even if RICE is the best course of action, our board-certified podiatrists can confirm there are no more serious conditions or risks. For professional foot and ankle treatment in NYC, contact the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.