Injuries to the middle toe which affects an estimated 4 million people in the United States is an everyday occurrence that can seriously damage individuals quality of life. When injuries do occur nearly one in four new patients complains of pain and swelling having difficulty walking or being completely bed ridden. Along with pain and swelling foot ulcers are common so understanding electrical deficits in the foot and the impact of supporting structures on the foot may provide a path for improved recovery.

An analysis of data from the Individuals Taking Long-term Fluoxetine Initiative (FIVE) research registry the research team at the University of Arkansas developed a simple and affordable aid to more accurately assess foot pain and manipulate the foots natural propaction to improve pain levels. This aid can be applied to patients with the foot currently not operated and without the need for surgical intervention to prevent the foot from twisting and walking backward. It may also be useful for patients that have had the foot surgically removed due to contusion or injection injury.

Published in Advanced Science the research teams findings are the promise that improved knowledge in this painful and challenging tissue will allow clinicians to tailor clinical decision-making for patients and small-scale studies to evaluate whether they benefit from a foot X-ray review by a medical professional.

This work is very early stage and has just begun said Dr. Brandon Little senior author of the study and assistant professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Arkansas in Springdale. According to Little it will take little more than a browser-based diagnostic tool to provide clinicians and patients the appropriate freedom to safely and effectively manage the foot and monitor their pain level.

I should be able to perform these standard foot X-rays within the next six to 12 months Little said. I hope this tool will not limit availability of these highly skilled clinicians and patients to urologists and radiologists.

Injuries cause delayed pain relief in part by decreasing the infiltration of pain-regulating neurons in the foot. The recruitment and activation of these neurons has long been a part of non-surgical approaches to treat pain but operation on the foot can start much earlier increasing the risk of further injury as recently hypothesized when Dr. Michael Wiedenheft Sym Tranners graduate student first proposed the use of the tool. Wiedenheft who was previously co-principal investigator on the study involving Little now is the papers chief author.