Treating Foot and Ankle Pain At All Ages: An Interview with Tony Grillo, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT

Tony Grillo, PT, DPT, OCS, CIMT will never forget the young woman that came into his Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic not too long ago.

She had a “full ride to a very prestigious Division 1 school for track and field,” Grillo recently told MD TV during an interview with them.

“She was having a problem (in her feet and ankles) debilitating her to a point where she may not get the scholarship or be able to participate in her sport. With the proper treatment— stretching, strengthening, orthotics and some other treatments including taping—not only was she able to participate in track and field and get her full ride, but in her last few meets of her high school career, she actually set running records.”

Grillo, the Clinical Director of the Tidewater Physical Therapy Oyster Point location in Newport News, talked to MD TV recently about foot and ankle pain, how to treat it and who suffers from it.

When people think of achy feet or ankles, many assume that it’s only applicable to older adults, but the reality is that people can develop foot and ankle problems at any age, for a number a reasons. Just take the college athlete, Grillo said.

Many times the pain is thanks to Plantar Fasciitis, which “is an inflammation of the band of tissue which helps support your arch and attaches into your heel,” Grillo said, explaining that it can afflict anyone. “The symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis are typically a slow onset of localized heel pain on the inside of the bottom or your heel. It’s typically worse for the first few steps in the morning or after you’ve been sitting awhile or if you’re running or standing on a hard surface. It’s also tender to touch, locally.”

The condition is fairly common, affecting one in 10 people.

Though it can happen to anybody, it’s most commonly seen in people between the ages of 45 and 65.

“From an occupational standpoint,” Grillo said, “most people who develop Plantar Fasciitis have jobs where they’re standing for long periods of time or walking off and on hard surfaces. It also affects runners and athletes of all ages, as well as people who have predisposing factors even if they don’t do those daily activities on an extended basis.”

Though Plantar Fasciitis is typically a condition that will go away on it’s own when left untreated, it also has a tendency to come back, which is a main reason that Grillo recommends people seek treatment from a physical therapist or a foot and ankle specialist.

“If left completely untreated, most people, studies show, will resolve Plantar Fasciitis in 10 months. This can be significantly shortened if you seek treatment,” Grillo said.

If a patient does come to a clinic seeking treatment, it’s typically a conservative treatment that “starts off with stretching and strengthening of the muscles of the calf and ankle. Orthotics are typically a critical component, as they help to support your arch and minimize excessive foot motion, as well as control abnormal foot motion. Then, if more conservative methods don’t work, we typically can move a patient into a night splint, injection or wearing a boot,” Grillo said.

However, because health insurance doesn’t typically cover the orthotics themselves, it may make more sense to start with what’s called a semi-custom orthotic, also known as an over-the-counter orthotic that’s modified based on the patient’s specific foot.

Many people would prefer custom orthotics, but it is significantly cheaper to begin with a semi-custom orthotic that is easily modified to make sure that it helps the patient. If the patient finds that the semi-custom orthotic isn’t working, then a custom orthotic can be made.

“I find in my practice that, like a number of other disorders, the duration of the problem is typically correlated to how long you’ve had the problem before you seek treatment, so my advice to most people is to seek treatment sooner than later,” Grillo said.

Have foot or ankle pain and want to see Grillo? Make an appointment today. Not in the Newport News area? Find a Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic near you and make your own appointment.

Many of the physical therapists at Tidewater Physical Therapy Inc. hold Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy.  Grillo holds Direct Access Certification and is available to evaluate and treat patients without a prescription from a physician.
Read more about Tony and the Tidewater Oyster Point clinic.