One of the most complex parts of a human body is the foot, consisting of 26 bones that form two crossing arches; the foot is the platform of human body movement. Foot pain signals a problem with the interaction of internal structures in the foot or the interaction between the foot and external objects. Where, when, and how the pain occurs are the primary clues to what is causing the pain. The body changes its movements or functions in an effort to reduce foot pain. Foot problems can cause pain, inflammation, or injury, resulting in limited mobility. Many people experience foot pain and discomfort – foot pain may be due to aging, standing for long periods, being overweight, foot deformities, injuries, improper shoes, or too much walking, running, biking, and so on.
Causes & Symptoms
When your feet hurt, your daily activities can become a pain too. Your feet bear much of your weight and do a lot of work every single day, so they are susceptible to many different ailments. Foot pain may affect the top of your foot, the ball of your foot, your arch, or your heel. Here are some of the most common causes of foot pain and how you can address them:
Arthritis presents in many different ways. Usually, it involves a breakdown of cartilage, which protects the joint so that it moves smoothly and absorbs shock when pressure is placed in the joint during walking and other activities. If there is insufficient cartilage, the bones rub together, resulting in pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Autoimmune diseases, wear and tear, and infection are some causes of arthritis. Joint inflammation subsides once the cause of inflammation disappears or is treated. In chronic arthritis, the inflammation remains, with osteoarthritis being a possible cause. Joint pain and swelling result in reduced joint mobility, stiffness, and warmth. Gout, a type of arthritis, occurs when uric acid builds up in the blood and causes inflammation, often in the joint of the big toe.
A bunion, or hallux valgus, is a protrusion of bone or tissue around a joint. This condition, which is more common in women, sometimes runs in families as well. Wearing narrow-toed or high-heeled shoes may lead to the development of a bunion. The bunion may become painful as the bump enlarges, and extra bone and a fluid-filled sac form at the base of the big toe. The symptoms are red and callused skin along the inside edge of the big toe, a bony bump at the site, pain over the joint, and deviation of the big toe towards the other toes. An individual can keep the bunion under control by making lifestyle changes when it first develops, including wearing properly fitting shoes.
This condition, which is more common in women, involves a buildup of bunion tissue in the nerves running between the long bones of the foot. The exact cause of Morton’s Neuroma is unknown; however, some experts believe that abnormal positioning of the toes, excess body weight, flat feet, bunions, hammer toes, tight or high-heeled shoes, and performance of high-impact activities may be involved in the development of this condition.
Who Gets Foot Pain?
Foot pain is more common in children and older adults. Women may also be at risk from wearing high-heeled shoes. Other types of risk factors include the following:
- Jobs – Some jobs can increase the risk of injury, such as walking for long periods during construction duty. Other problems can be from repetitive use on the job, such as in the food service industry.
- Smoking – Smoking can slow healing, therefore, this may lead to foot problems that become painful because they do not heal properly.
- Sports – Patients who do high-impact exercise are at risk for plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, Achilles tendinopathy, and stress fractures.
- Diabetes – Patients who are living with diabetes are at a higher risk for severe foot infections due to poor circulation.
- Obesity – People who carry excess weight put more stress on their feet. This also raises the risk of foot or ankle injuries.
Additionally, people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and some inherited abnormalities are also at risk of foot pain.
How Does It Affect You? How Serious Is It?
Many types of foot pain conditions may occur, including the following:
This condition is an inflammation of the thick band of tissues (plantar fascia) stretching across the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is overstretched or overused. This causes heel pain and makes walking much more difficult. The condition often affects people who run, jump or stand for long periods of time. The pain is worst when the person first gets out of bed in the morning. Plantar fasciitis occurs in both men and women; however, it is more common in active men aged 40-70 years. Long-distance runners and people with arch problems, sudden weight gain, or a tight Achilles tendon are most associated with plantar fasciitis. The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone, is the most common site of rupture or tendinitis from overuse.
Hammer Toe is a deformity in which the toe buckles, causing the middle joint of the affected toe to bend downwards. Normally the second toes are affected, but the disorder can also occur in other toes. The most common cause of Hammer Toe is wearing narrow, too-small, or high-heeled shoes that are too tight. Hammer Toe is more likely to affect women, but it also occurs in children who wear shoes they have outgrown. People should avoid wearing wrong-sized shoes, especially children during periods of fast growth, as the ligaments and tendons become tight and shorten. The condition can be congenital or develop over time. In rare cases, all the toes are affected. This may be caused by a problem with the nerves or spinal cord – the end of the toe bends downwards into a claw-like deformity; a corn often forms on the top of the toe, and a callus forms on the sole of the foot.
Foot problems in patients with diabetes account for more hospital admissions than any other long-term complications of diabetes. Foot ulceration is an important predisposing factor to amputation and is present in more than 80% of all diabetes-related amputations. Diabetic foot ulceration is considered to be a consequence of diabetic peripheral neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease.
A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone that is caused by repeated or prolonged force against the bone. Stress fractures often occur from overuse, as in high-impact sports like distance running and basketball. Athletes participating in tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and soccer are at high risk for stress fractures. Most stress fractures occur in the weight-bearing bones of the foot and lower leg, especially when activity frequency, duration, and intensity are increased. When muscles are ‘over-tired’, they transfer the stress to the bone, which can develop small cracks or fractures. People who do not exercise can also develop stress fractures. If osteoporosis or another disease has weakened the bones, normal daily activities may result in a stress fracture.
Recommended Treatment & Rehabilitation
A podiatrist will ask detailed questions about symptoms, the degree and location of pain, and the patient’s medical history in order to understand the nature of the foot pain and recommended medical treatment. X-rays may be performed to greatly assist in diagnosis. As for treatment, this depends on the underlying issue causing your foot pain. Normally, once the primary problem is treated, the pain subsides.
Over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and some topical analgesics like gels or creams can help relieve mild foot pain. It is also recommended to get a foot massage to stimulate circulation, reduce tension, and soothe muscles.
Wearing comfortable shoes that offer support without putting too much pressure on your feet can also be considered to heal your foot pain rapidly.
Regularly exercising and stretching the feet and ankles can help ensure that the muscles are providing the best support. These exercises may also increase the range of motion in the feet, helping keep a person active for as long as possible. Most foot exercises are simple and require no complicated equipment to perform. Here are a few exercise methods anyone can try either at home or elsewhere:
Toe raise, point, and curl
Sit up straight in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Keeping the toes on the floor, raise the heels. Stop when only the balls of the feet remain on the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds before lowering the heels. For the second stage of this exercise, raise the heels and point the toes so that only the tips of the big and second toes are touching the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds before lowering. For the third stage, raise the heels and curl the toes inwards so that only the tips of the toes are touching the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
Sit up straight in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Then, lay a small towel on the floor in front of the body, with the short side facing the feet. Place the toes of one foot on the short side of the towel. Try to grasp the towel between the toes and pull it towards oneself. Repeat this exercise five times before switching to the other foot.
Big toe stretch
Sit up in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Bring the left foot to rest on the right thigh. Using the fingers, gently stretch the big toe up, down, and to the side. Finally, keep the big toe in each position for 5 seconds. Repeat this 10 more times before switching to the other foot.
Sit up straight in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Place an empty bowl and a bowl of 20 marbles on the floor in front of the feet. Using only the toes of one foot, pick up each marble and place it in the empty bowl. Repeat this method using the other foot.
Face a wall and raise the arms so that the palms of the hands are resting flat against the wall. Move one foot back, keeping the knee straight, then, bend the knee of the opposite leg. Keep both heels flat on the floor. Afterwards, push the hips forwards until there is a stretching feeling in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat three times on each side.
Alternative & Homeopathic Treatment
Here are some home remedies (known as the RICE method) for foot pain that will work for your healing process regarding this condition:
- Rest – The person should stay off the injured foot. Walking, running, or playing sports could increase the injury and worsen.
- Ice – The patient should apply an ice pack to the injured foot as soon as they can. For the first 48 hours, he / she should repeat this step throughout the day, for 15-20 minutes at a time.
- Compression – The individual should wrap a bandage around the injured foot and ankle. The bandage should be snug, however, the patient will need to be careful not to cut off his / her circulation.
- Elevation – It is recommended to lie down and elevate the injured foot so that it is above the heart. This will decrease the swelling.