Should I See a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist for Foot Pain?

Foot pain affects 1 in 5 people.

Whether it’s hobbling in the morning, or sharp pain in your feet, podiatrists and physiotherapists are both dedicated to helping you perform at your best.

But to answer the question of who is the best to see, perhaps we should explore what both podiatrists and physiotherapists do.

What is a Physiotherapist?

A physiotherapist is a person qualified to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent a wide range of health conditions and movement disorders by physical methods such as movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.

Physiotherapy treatment helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life.

What is a Podiatrist?

A Podiatrist is a person dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs.

Podiatry treatment also helps repair damage, reduce stiffness and pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life.

And, while there are things a physiotherapist will do that a podiatrist won’t do (basically anything not to do with the feet), a podiatrist will also help with the following:

  • Removal of corns, callus and other painful lesions
  • Diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders
  • Administration of local anaesthetic
  • Surgical treatment of ingrown toenails
  • Gait (walking) assessment
  • Provision of customised orthotics (shoe inserts)
Scott Leslie, Podiatrist

Scott Leslie, Podiatrist, provides treatment for a patient at Posture Podiatry

Podiatrist or Physiotherapist?

Given that we walk on average 128,000km throughout our lifetime (that’s enough to go around the earth 4 times!), healthy feet are an important part of your overall well-being.

The best outcomes occur when physiotherapists and podiatrists work together for the overall benefit of the client.

Scenario 1: Physio to Podiatrist

If someone rolls their ankle it might be a one-off incident, in which case the protection, management and rehabilitation is often performed by a physiotherapist. That’s why most sports teams have a physiotherapist on their roster.

However, if the same person frequently sprains their ankle, they might be referred by the physiotherapist to a podiatrist to look further into how the foot is working, and other factors that might be contributing to frequent ankle sprains.

The client will have their foot mechanics and walking assessed, and they may be prescribed orthotics or specific foot mobilisation and strengthening to solve the problem.

Scenario 2: Podiatrist to Physio

A podiatrist who is helping a client with chronic heel pain finds that there are factors from higher up contributing to the pain, such as gluteal weakness, hip rotation issues and core stability problems.

The podiatrist will refer to the physiotherapist to help uncover the cause of the problem that may be higher up in the body, and prescribe exercises to release and strengthen the area.

Together, the client has a much better chance of a successful outcome.

So, while both physiotherapists and podiatrists will both provide taping for sports injuries, massage and mobilise feet, and assess posture and gait, it’s important that your physiotherapist and podiatrist are both working together for the best outcome.

Still unclear on who to see?

If you don’t know who to see for your foot or ankle injury, try this:

  • See your physiotherapist for an acute injury where you know the cause.
  • See your podiatrist for foot pain that doesn’t go away and you don’t know why.
See your podiatrist for foot pain that doesn't go away and you don't know why. Click To Tweet

Okay so perhaps it’s not supposed to be as simple as that (Angry health professionals alert!)

But contrary to what some might say, in a lot of cases one person cannot do it all.

It’s best when both your physio and podiatrist are working together for your benefit.

Start with who you know. If you already have a physiotherapist or podiatrist, ask them who they think you should see.

Then ask them to recommend the best treatment plan for you.

That’s how you’ll get the best outcome.

Ask your health professional to recommend the best treatment plan for you… including who else to see. Click To Tweet

At Posture Podiatry, our podiatrists work together with physiotherapists all over Adelaide to help you get the best outcome.

Book an appointment or phone us on 08 8362 5900 to talk about the best options for you.