A study from 2014 found that 77% of American adults suffered from foot pain. Most people experience at least some form of foot pain in their lives, but when the pain is severe, it can affect the quality of your life.
Suddenly, your afternoon walk becomes unbearable, or you can’t stand for more than 30 minutes at a time.
There are many reasons why we develop foot pain, but some of the most common causes include:
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot problems, and it’s especially common in runners.
The condition occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes.
Plantar fasciitis can cause some really uncomfortable symptoms – like stabbing pain in your heel or pain in the sole of the foot. The pain is usually the worst when you take those first few steps in the morning, but it can also be triggered by standing for long periods of time.
But here’s the good news (sort of): the pain is typically worse after exercising – not during it. So, you can still exercise, but you’ll be feeling it the next day.
Excessive tension and stress on the plantar fascia can cause small tears. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the tissue to become inflamed and irritated.
I know a lot of runners that have plantar fasciitis, and there are some days when this condition makes their life miserable. But orthotic inserts and stretching can help.
It can take several months for this condition to heal, and most people will use a combination of medication and physical therapy to overcome the pain. In severe cases, surgery may be required.
Bunions are bony bumps that form on the joint at the base of your big toe. They’re more common in women – especially those that wear high heels or tight shoes – but men can also develop bunions if they wear the wrong footwear.
Bunions form when the big toe pushes against the second toe, which forces the joint of the big toe to get bigger and eventually stick out. The bunion may push up against the inside of the shoe, causing irritation and pain when walking.
Small bunions can also form on the joint of the little toe.
Doctors don’t really know what causes bunions, but they do have some theories.
There’s still some debate over whether your shoes can actually cause bunions.
There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options for bunions. Most people find relief simply by changing shoes and wearing special shoe inserts.
But if conservative treatment isn’t effective, surgery may be performed. Surgery can take weeks or months to recover from.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when repeated pressure is put on the posterior tibial nerve. This is the nerve that connects to the sciatic nerve and is found down by your ankle. Damage to this nerve usually occurs when consistent pressure compresses the nerve.
Pain is the most common symptom of tarsal tunnel syndrome, but you may also feel numbness or tingling. The discomfort can occur anywhere along the tibial nerve, but most people feel pain either on the inside of their ankle or the sole of the foot.
Sometimes the pain can be sharp and shooting. Other times, it can feel like pins and needles or a burning sensation. Symptoms may progress gradually, or they may come on suddenly.
Exercise can make the pain even worse.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can be caused by a number of things, including:
Your doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory medications or steroids to help alleviate the pain.
In severe cases, surgery is needed. The surgery is called tarsal tunnel release, and your doctor will release the ligament to relieve the nerve.
Bone spurs are small bumps of extra bone that form on the ends of bones. They typically form on joints, but they can develop on any part of the body – including the feet.
Some people aren’t bothered by bone spurs. But if the growths start rubbing against other bones or presses on the nerves, it can cause pain and stiffness.
Symptoms tend to be more severe in people who are on their feet all day, and they can cause severe foot pain when walking.
Bone spurs usually form after an injury to a tendon or joint. Arthritis usually causes the injury. The body thinks the bone is damaged, so it forms new bone to “fix” the injury.
Treatment for bone spurs may include over-the-counter pain relievers, steroids, rest and physical therapy.
If these conservative treatments are ineffective, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Achilles tendinitis occurs when you over use your Achilles tendon, which is the band of tissue that links your calf muscles to your heel bone.
This is another condition that’s really common with runners, especially when they increase the intensity or the duration of their runs.
When the condition first develops, it usually causes a mild ache in the back of the leg or right above the heel. You’ll usually feel it after a good workout or run.
After prolonged stair climbing, sprinting or running, the pain will get progressively worse.
Most people develop this condition after putting repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon.
Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this condition, as the tendon weakens as you age.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, physical therapy and orthotic devices may be all that’s needed to treat the problem.
But if the condition is severe or prolonged, surgery may be required.
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