Podiatry is the branch of medicine and study dedicated to the feet, ankles, and lower extremities. This form of doctoring is considered a specialty with extra training involved for the designation. The curriculum covered in podiatric medical school programs learning the lower extremity anatomy more thoroughly and genetic conditions, surgeries, and physical rehabilitation skills specifically related to the feet, ankles, and structures of the legs. While the term “podiatry” started in the 20th century, the history behind foot doctors goes much farther back.
Ancient Forms of Podiatry
We know that professional foot care has existed since at least 2400 BC because of bas-relief carvings in ancient Egypt at Ankmahor’s tomb. Hippocrates gives more evidence of professional foot care when he talks about removing corns and calluses on the feet. The original scalpels were invented by Hippocrates to help scrape skin and remove these hard skin spots.
Up until the 20th century, doctors who focused on feet, ankles, and legs were called chiropodists and considered separate from other types of organized medicine. It was still considered a respectable profession and became more established by the 1800s. There are more recent historical references to podiatrists and those who used them since ancient Egypt and Greece, including the King of France and Napoleon, who both had a personal podiatrist. Abraham Lincoln also had a personal foot doctor to help care for his ingrown toe nails and “troublesome corns”.
The Shaping of Modern Podiatry
The first professional chiropody society was established in 1895 in New York with a school opening not long after in 1911. In 1912, just one year later, the British started their own society at the London Foot Hospital. In the United States, chiropodists received licensing to treat patients, but in the 1960s, schools started granting the current designation, which is a DPM, or Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.
The current education includes training and board certification to prove a proficiency at treating patients. Some of the skills that podiatrists are licensed to do with feet, ankles, and the lower legs are:
- Do a physical examination and take a medical history
- Order and evaluate ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs, and other images
- Prescribe medications
- Diagnose and treat injuries
- Diagnose disorders
- Set fractures
- Perform reconstructive surgery and microsurgery
- Fit orthotics, insoles, casts, and prosthetics
- Perform physical therapy
After medical school, podiatrists in the United States are required to do several years of residency, board certification and licensing, which allow them to handle surgical care.
Visiting a Podiatrist
There are many services offered by podiatrists, which all fall under the podiatry umbrella. Sports injuries, geriatrics, and orthopedics can all deal with feet, ankles, and lower legs. Since a podiatrist is trained to deal with many of these problems, it is often worth going straight to a podiatry office for diagnosis and treatment. Since they are licensed to do all the care from diagnosis to physical therapy and everything in between, many patients prefer to see a single doctor.
If you need to see a podiatrist, give one of our offices a call. With multiple locations and a list of experienced doctors, we are ready to help you get back on your feet, faster.