Oh, My Aching Feet
Foot pain affects many people at various times throughout life. This includes children, teens, adults, and the elderly. Foot pain can be localized to one spot or spread throughout the entire foot. It can slowly creep into toe joints, or quickly stab into the heel or arch areas. Foot pain reminds us that our feet are attached to the rest of our body, and sometimes need special attention.
Painful feet have several different diagnoses, depending on the location and type of pain. Joint pain (pain between two movable bones) is called arthritis or arthralgia. Muscle pain is known as myositis or myalgia. Both present as aching, throbbing discomfort aggravated by movement or pressure. Tendons connect muscle to bone. When the tendon is strained or injured, it is very painful. This is known as tendonitis.
Two special forms of tendonitis can cause extreme pain in the heel or arch. One affects the back of the heel/ankle. It is known as Achilles tendonitis. This very large, thick tendon extends from the calf muscles to the top of the heel bone. It is often aggravated when women who wear high heels during the week, switch to flats or sandals on the weekend. The tendon is suddenly stretched taunt and several tendon fibers may rupture or tear.
Another form of tendonitis affects the bottom of the arch and heel area. This can cause significant pain upon arising in the morning, or after sitting for long periods of time. When the arch and heel are painful it is known as plantar fasciitis. Several skin lesions can be painful. Plantar warts, thickened cornified tissue known as corns and calluses, deep grooves of callous tissue (fissures), and blisters from friction rub or fungus infections.
Injuries to the foot and ankle can be painful. These include sprains, blunt trauma, slip and fall injuries, puncture wounds, cuts, and bruises (contusions) to the toenail. X-rays are often necessary to detect fractures of the bones.
Pain management of foot discomfort involves control of the function of the feet, known as biomechanics. Foot imbalance can be controlled with shoe inserts known as orthotics, or flexible, cushioned insoles for the heel and arch. Shoe therapy involves proper measuring and fitting for extra depth toe box shoes to accommodate bunions, hammertoes, and swollen feet. Foot exercises and stretching techniques help to prevent painful episodes following aerobics, jogging, dancing, and biking. Evening foot soaks and gentle foot massages help to relax overworked foot muscles. Oral pain medications, injections and foot surgery are utilized for pain management as needed in each individual case.
When your feet hurt, seek medical care from your podiatrist or foot specialist. It is important to have a diagnostic evaluation of the underlying cause for your foot pain in order to properly treat and manage the pain.