What’s the difference between chiropody and podiatry?

A question I am often asked: what exactly is podiatry and is it different to chiropody. Generally people tend to know what a chiropodist is – they cut toenails and pare corns right?? Well I’d like to think I didn’t spend four gruelling years at college studying and researching to come out and just be expected to cut toenails!

Podiatric medicine is a health care degree. It’s not just about trimming the nails and removing callus. I studied a variety of subjects from medicine and surgery to biomechanics and wound care. We focused on particular diseases that affect the foot like diabetes and arthritis but also covered all the basics like the nature of the skin and nail and how they can become painful or abnormal.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the routine chiropody. There’s nothing like removing an ingrown toenail or troublesome corn (more commonly known as “A WELT” – but maybe that’s just the lovely country folk I’ve come across). There is great job satisfaction in giving someone instant relief from their foot pain. But I also am thinking ‘why do you have that foot problem’ and ‘is there anything more I can do to stop the issue’. My degree in podiatry has given me the skills and knowledge to treat lower limb and foot pain. But I also have the tools to provide treatment plans to ease your discomfort and often cure foot pain.

Often orthotics (shoe insets/insoles) play a role in this but these aren’t always the solution.  Don’t let a very good sales person or marketing scam fool you into believing they are the best cure (I’ll get back to this in another blog so watch this space!)

Anyone that studied podiatry will also know how important safe practice and hygiene are. The spread of disease and germs is a massive problem in health care. So it’s important that any professional you visit about your foot health doesn’t put you or themselves at risk. Fungal infections and verruca can be difficult to treat once you have contracted them. Podiatry students must undergo a minimum of 1000 hours clinical placement and complete a series of practical exams where patient safety and hygiene are vital. So no one gets to put the letters “BSc in Podiatry” after their name unless they know how to be squeaky clean!

So I tend to advertise myself as a podiatrist because I worked hard to gain that title. The difficulty is not everyone knows what a podiatrist is.

The difference really is to do with the introduction of the degree course and also to keep in line with the language used in other countries. For example in America or Australia if you said you were going to the chiropodist they might not understand. However if you say podiatry or podiatrist they would know you were going to see your “foot doctor” – a specialist in all things foot and lower limb related from skin and nail care to aches and pains.

In years gone by people were able to undertake a short course that enabled them to carry out routine care of the nails and skin of the foot. However in more recent times the profession now requires individuals to undertake an honours degree in podiatric medicine. In Ireland the only place to study podiatry is NUI Galway and it has been running here since 2008. Previously people had to travel to the UK to do this course. The profession isn’t yet regulated by CORU, ironically us podiatrists are at the bottom of the list. But once it is hopefully many of the people that are providing foot health care will have the necessary qualifications and insurance.

For those that aren’t aware of CORU you can check out their website www.CORU.ie. They are Ireland’s multi-profession health regulator and their purpose is to protect the people like you and me from non-professionals claiming to have the necessary skills, knowledge and insurance to do the job but could potentially leave you in worse condition than when you started.

Anyway I’m gone off topic, what’s the difference between chiropody and podiatry? Really I suppose they are both professionals that specialise in the foot and lower limb. However I would say that if someone states that they are a registered podiatrist I can almost certainly guarantee your feet are in safe hands.