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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Fancy Footwork: Emerald Coast Podiatrist Takes the Lead with Nonsurgical Treatments

Jul 09, 2016 10:02AM ● By Allison Garmon

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t’s no coincidence that there have been fewer surgeries performed lately at Emerald Coast Podiatry. In the four months since Dr. Cosimo Ricciardi became the first area podiatrist to offer new, nonsurgical treatments targeting inflamed tendons and joints—a major source of chronic foot and ankle pain—many of his patients have found relief without going under the knife.

    While Ricciardi says surgery is still a highly effective option, and the only viable one for some patients, he’s seen positive results with every patient he’s treated using low-intensity laser light therapy and amniotic fluid injections, both recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. 

    “My surgical numbers are going down a little bit,” he says, “but hey, that’s fine by me.”

    Ricciardi makes it a habit to keep up with the latest in FDA-approved treatments for podiatric problems, and perhaps because he’s an athlete himself, he’s especially interested in alternatives to surgery, which can be debilitating in its own right. Achilles tendonitis, for example, is an excruciating condition that demands treatment, but surgery—long the default option—requires four to six weeks in a cast, another four to six weeks of physical therapy, and as long as a year before the resumption of normal activities.

    So when the FDA recently approved the two new nonsurgical treatments for foot and ankle pain, Ricciardi was quick to enroll in training so he could offer them to patients who might benefit from them. While they haven’t made foot surgery obsolete, he says, they enable him to offer first and second lines of less-invasive treatment before he turns to a surgical solution. 

Laser Focus

Laser therapy can be used for acute or chronic conditions, he says. “When treating acute conditions with laser therapy, it’s particularly effective when it’s administered as soon as possible following injury, assuming there’s no active hemorrhaging. The faster the inflammation is reduced and the healing process can begin, the better. In the case of acute injury, laser therapy helps restore the body to normal function quicker.”

    For chronic conditions, he uses laser therapy to essentially turn a chronic inflammatory process into a more acute inflammatory process—“something your body deals with with much better success. It turns on this whole cascade of healing options that your body inherently has, but has chosen not to implement.”

    While laser therapy is still a new service at Emerald Coast Podiatry, Ricciardi says he’s seen only positive results in the 25 to 30 patients he’s treated, including a 10-year-old competitive dancer, middle-aged weekend athletes and seniors with chronic foot and ankle pain. “It works. It’s crazy. I’m very excited about it,” he says. 

    He’s also been pleased so far by amniotic fluid injections, which can be used in combination with laser treatments or instead of them, as a second option to try before surgery. With either technique, he says, the idea is to treat not just the pain, but also the source of the pain. Combined with strategies to help patients avoid the repetitive actions that caused the problem in the first place, these new techniques allow him to create individualized treatment plans that are both preventive and healing.

    “So we deal with the hurt now, and then we implement some strategies to keep them from hurting (the injury further),” he says. “You put those two together, and they have a good rate of keeping people out of the hospital room.”

No Fungus Among Us

Laser therapy can also keep feet out of closed-toe shoes.

    While toenail fungus (medical name: onychomycosis) might not be as debilitating as an inflamed Achilles tendon, it is painful and embarrassing, and it affects more than 32 million Americans. Ricciardi says he’s had frustrated patients try all kinds of odd homegrown treatments—including vinegar, yellow mustard and Vicks VapoRub—before they finally gave up and came to him. Now he can offer them a state-of-the-art (and unscented) way to get back into their summer sandals.

    An added bonus of laser treatments is that they’re quick—five to ten minutes—and they actually feel good. “Depending on the laser, it can create little to no sensation or it can create a gentle, soothing warmth,” Ricciardi says. “Many patients who receive laser therapy treatments enjoy the experience, especially when we use a massage-ball treatment head to deliver what’s often referred to as a ‘laser massage.’”

    These new, nonsurgical techniques are changing the way podiatry is practiced—and leading the way on the Emerald Coast is Dr. Cosimo Ricciardi, who believes that cutting-edge medicine often means no cutting at all.

Emerald Coast Podiatry is located at 341 Racetrack Rd. NW, Fort Walton Beach (850-862-4119) and 120 E. Redstone Ave., Ste. A, Crestview. For more information, visit EmeraldCoastPodiatry.com.

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