Our feet alone are made up of 28 bones and 33 joints, connected by a complex system of nerves, muscle fibers, tendons and ligaments, all of which undergo wear and tear. Some studies show that 75% of Americans have experienced some foot & ankle pain or the other. Foot & Ankle surgery is so common as it has a wide range of contributing factors, including uncomfortable footwear, sedentary lifestyle, overactive lifestyle, physical injuries, and chronic conditions like diabetes. Identifying the origin of the pain in the foot can sometimes indicate the underlying cause. And the cause will determine the treatment to be followed for recovery. However, it is not always possible to diagnose the cause based on where it originates or presents itself. Conditions, such diabetes and arthritis, can often cause discomfort in multiple areas. Sometimes, foot pain is felt short-term, like after a day of swimming or physical overexertion. But chronic foot pain, where the symptoms persist for weeks on end, is a definite sign of some severe underlying problem. Here are some common causes of chronic foot pain:
The most common symptom of stress fractures is pain felt while doing an activity. Older adults, in particular, are very susceptible to stress fractures (small cracks in the bone). The symptoms of a stress fracture are far less than those one would experience with an actual bone fracture; most people won’t even realize they have one. It’s also important to know that not all stress fractures show up on an X-ray, so you may need to get an MRI scan taken. Stress fractures could also be telltale signs that your bones are thinning out.
One experiences heel pain when the thin ligament on the bottom of your foot becomes highly irritated and inflamed. Heel pain treatment includes ample icing and rest, but if it persists, then it's advisable to get it checked out by a doctor.
Neuropathy is a common condition observed in diabetics. It happens when high levels of fats/ sugar in the blood affect the nerves in the hands and feet. A patient typically experiences tingling and burning sensations, and even foot numbness. It is highly recommended that those with diabetes check their feet every day for cuts, swelling, and wear proper diabetic shoes and socks.
Corns with their small round yellow bumps and hard centers can be very painful. In most cases, they develop as a result of prolonged application of pressure from another toe or poorly fitting footwear.
Calluses can develop anywhere on the foot, be it the bottom of the foot or the toes. Fret not, for calluses are super normal. It’s the cracked, exposed skin from calluses that one needs to care for and worry about.
The Achilles (not inspired from the character Brad Pitt played in Troy) tendon, the largest tendon in the body, is the tendon that connects your heel to your calf. An inflammation in the tendon can be a result of overuse during sports or other intense physical activities. Stiffness and swelling are the most common symptoms, which usually improve with rest, icing, stretching, pain medication, etc.
Pain at the front of the foot near the toes could be due to muscle strains and sprains, and tense muscles. Do note that many chronic conditions can also lead to such pain.
Morton’s neuroma is nerve pain radiating from a benign tumor. A person may feel numbness or tingling in the toes, and a burning sensation in the toes. Changing the type of shoes you wear, taking pain meds, and taking up physical therapy can offer a resolution.
Foot arch pain
Muscle injuries, unsupportive shoes, and overexertion cause pain in the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis and tendonitis could also cause foot arch pain. A person has fallen arches (flat feet), when the tendons that support the arch of the foot weaken.
This is an inflammatory disease that causes pain and swelling in the joints. Signs, such as heel pain and bottom of the foot pain, indicate this condition.
Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that often begins in the big toe. Caused due to high urate build-up in the body, Gout often leads to joint pain and swelling. This condition is common in middle-aged men and women. If your toes are killing you and keeping you up all night, there’s a good chance it’s gout.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
This is the compression of the posterior tibial nerve in the ankle. At times, even a simple sprain can damage the tibial nerve. In severe cases, surgery may be required to treat the condition.
Metatarsalgia is an inflammation of the area behind your toes. One may feel like they have a stone in their shoe, with the pain only getting worse on any kind of motion. People who indulge in heavy physical workouts are quite prone to metatarsalgia. Icing, taking ample rest and wearing supportive footwear should offer relief and prevent any recurrence.
Osteoarthritis occurs from excessive physical activity. Some patients could even see their mobility affected. Making certain lifestyle changes and taking up physical therapy usually help with recovery.
Hammer toes may be caused by muscle imbalance of your feet. They present themselves as contracted toes. Painful corns and calluses are common on hammer toes, which are treated by wearing shoes that don’t press down on the toe and pain medication.
Signs include discoloration of the skin, severe pain in the ankle or foot, and unusually warm sensation on the skin. Be warned that smokers, obese men and women, and those over the age of 65 are more at risk.
A heel spur is a bony growth. If the tissue around the foot becomes stretched by your own weight or due to overuse or from wearing improper footwear, it can become inflamed and pull on the bone. Treatment includes rest, steroids, stretching, icing, and changing footwear.
A bunion is a hard bump on the big toe. Bunions form due to tight shoes or the shape of the foot. An inflamed bunion can be sore and tender on touch. Wearing shoes that offer breathing space to the toes and icing may relieve pain. In case you are wondering, there are also several types of surgery performed for removing bunions, but recovery can take months and there is a possibility they may reappear.
Sometimes, the pain you feel in your foot is actually due to a problem with your ankles. For instance, an ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle are subjected to an unusual amount of force, like when you plant your feet awkwardly on uneven ground while running, and tear (ouch). Common symptoms include the inability to bear your own weight, unbearable pain, swelling, warmth, hindered range of motion, bruising, limping, and even tenderness. A sprained ankle is not really a medical emergency, but it will take some care if you want it to heal completely. Remember, there’s no one correct treatment for every sprain, which is why it's important you consult a doctor and get yourself examined to get an accurate diagnosis.
Both foot & ankle pain can be treated with a combination of medication, physical therapy, or other nonsurgical interventions. In certain severe cases, minimally invasive surgery can also help relieve pain and restore normalcy. Foot and Ankle Pain should never be ignored, as it can affect mobility and foot function. Any kind of pain warrants a visit to the doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Orange County Foot & Ankle Group offers various treatment and specialized pain management techniques, even for serious and chronic cases that require your feet & ankle to be operated on. The physicians at Orange County Foot & Ankle Group, Inc. are Board Certified in Foot Surgery. They perform hundreds of surgical procedures annually helping people with a wide variety of foot & ankle problems. Call to schedule an appointment and understand the best course of treatment for any and all foot & ankle problems.