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What is Foot Pain
Your foot is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Strong enough to bear your body weight, your foot can be prone to injury and pain.
Foot pain can affect any part of your foot, from your toes to your Achilles tendon at the back of your heel.
Although mild foot pain often responds well to home treatments, it can take time to resolve. Severe foot pain should be evaluated by your doctor, especially if it follows an injury.
Causes of Foot Pain
Pain in the foot can be due to a problem in any part of the foot. Bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, toenail beds, nerves, blood vessels, or skin can be the source of foot pain.
The cause of foot pain can be narrowed down by location and by considering some of the most common causes of foot pain.
Symptoms and signs may accompany foot pain?
Pain and point tenderness are the immediate indicators that something is wrong in a specific area. The onset of pain, whether suddenly or over time, is an important indicator of the cause of the problem. The following questions are also important.
- Is there pain with movement of the affected area?
- Is it affected by weight-bearing?
- Does it change your walking motion?
Bones of the foot are joined together by ligaments. A sprain occurs when the ligaments that hold the bones together are overstretched and the fibers tear. Point tenderness and looseness of a joint can be indicators of a sprain.
Injury to the bones of the foot can be caused by a single blow or twist to the arch or also by repetitive trauma that can result in a stress fracture. Fractures are indicated by a focal point of pain that may be exquisitely tender on the bone. There may be a distinguishable lump or gap at the site of the fracture. A rotated toe or forefoot may also be a sign of a fracture or dislocation.
Muscle and tendons move the body tissues around the joints. A strain occurs when a muscle or group of muscles are stressed to the point where there is tearing of the muscle fibers. The muscles and tendons of the foot may be strained by overstretching, overuse, overloading, bruising, or even being lacerated. Weakness in contraction of a joint, difficulty in stabilizing body parts, and pain working against resistance are signs of muscle problems. Swelling, tenderness, loss of function, and discoloration over and around the injury of can be symptoms and signs of a strain.
Bruises (contusions) are most commonly the result of a direct impact injury to the body. A bruise can occur to the foot by a variety of causes, such as having your foot stepped on or by stepping on a rock. Blows to the foot that result in pain, discoloration, swelling, and changes in how you walk may indicate more serious damage such as fractured bone.
Pain and tenderness associated with planter fascia strains are usually felt on the bottom of the foot between the heel and the base of the toes. Plantar fascia pain may be increased or decreased by stretching of the arch. In mild cases of plantar fasciitis, the pain will decrease as the soft tissues of the foot “warm up,” however, pain may increase as use of the foot increases. In more severe cases of plantar fasciitis, pain may increase when the arch is stressed. Often the sufferer of plantar fasciitis will feel pain in the morning until the plantar fascia warms up. Foot pain at night may be a sign of plantar fasciitis as well as other possible problems.
A sensation of rubbing or burning on the surface of the foot is usually the first signs of a blister. Itching and burning sensations between the toes or around the foot indicate a skin infection or athlete’s foot. Pain and redness at the edge of a toenail are usually the result of an ingrown toenail.
Foot Pain Prevention
The following steps can prevent foot problems and foot pain:
- Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes, with good arch support and cushioning.
- Wear shoes with plenty of room around the ball of your foot and toes, a wide toe box.
- Avoid narrow-toed shoes and high heels.
- Wear sneakers as often as possible, especially when walking.
- Replace running shoes frequently.
- Warm up and cool down when exercising. Always stretch first.
- Increase your amount of exercise slowly over time to avoid putting excessive strain on your feet.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Learn exercises to strengthen your feet and avoid pain. This can help flat feet and other potential foot problems.
How to Prevent Chronic Foot Pain
You can take many measures to help prevent ongoing foot pain. For example:
- choose comfortable, roomy, and well-cushioned shoes
- avoid shoes with large heels and narrow toe areas
- maintain a healthy weight
- stretch before engaging in vigorous exercise
- practice good foot hygiene
- always wear some type of footwear when outdoors to protect your feet
Keep in mind that although foot pain is common, it is not a normal part of life. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you should seek medical help if you have foot pain that has not resolved after a week or two of at-home treatment (NIH, 2012).