While all students learn the basics of the body in medical school, some people focus on studying certain areas to a larger degree.
For instance, dermatologists spend extra time learning about the skin. Someone who is interested in further study of the feet is typically a podiatrist or a chiropodist.
Both are similar in their advanced knowledge of the foot but there are some differences.
Podiatrists put extra effort into examining and treating disorders of the ankle and feet.
A chiropodist has also studied more about the feet and is certified to diagnose possible disorders of the feet only, not the ankles.
Both titles also differ in the amount of studying required for this certificate, and the length of time that these titles have been in use.
Some of those in the “foot” field say the titles podiatrist and chiropodist are close enough these days and the general jobs are close enough too, with a few exceptions.
In fact, chiropodist used to be the medical establishment term for all people who have received certifications to help with feet. But many believe the term was updated to podiatrist in the 1950s and 1960s to avoid conflict and potential confusion with general chiropractic medicine, which was a growing field at that time.
So the term podiatry is only about 50 years old, while people who are chiropodists may have been called it for generations. By the way, the name is made of two Greek roots: chiro, meaning hands, and pod, which means foot.
Generally, medical schools can provide a required foundation for all the body and general disorders, but future chiropodists and podiatrists have agreed to take additional time and additional courses to learn about the feet. In fact, podiatrists choose to take more classes along with training opportunities to earn the title and certification of “Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.”
Classes for both specialties focus on learning many details of the feet and ankle, including the different muscles and bones.
Then they learn about many of the medical conditions that can impact the foot, ankle, toes and more. These include structural damage, such as trauma involving a broken foot, ankle or heel. It also could include other foot-related conditions such as corns, bunions and other disorders and discuss current practices on how to treat them in their patients.
How they work together
Podiatrists generally have a wider scope of practice. Because of their extensive training and familiarity with the feet, certified Doctors of Podiatry also have the ability to perform surgery and prescribe medication.
In some communities, there might be a podiatrist and a chiropodist who work out of the same office. Patients may not know or care about the differences – they mainly want relief from their current condition.
Both or either position could be found in other medical facilities, including hospitals, assisted living communities, and more. These facilities may benefit from having someone with foot training available for referrals, including the emergency rooms or smaller clinics. It could be easy for a general provider to request a podiatrist or chiropodist to perform an assessment.
At Red Mountain Footcare, we’re always glad to assist anyone with foot questions or make appointments to evaluate feet via the chiropodists and podiatrists on staff. That team is happy to diagnose, treat and manage injuries and conditions of the ankle and feet.