The human foot is a complex structure that can be affected by different conditions, such as diseases within the foot itself or through an underlying condition within the body.
With 26 bones and 33 joints, along with muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatics, the foot is one of the most intricate anatomical structures in our body. It is our body’s very foundation of movement for the lower extremities. Pain in the foot can indicate problems with the interactions of the internal components inside it or how it interacts with the external influences.
The primary clues for the cause of pain are determined by how and when the pain occurs and the exact location of the discomfort. When there is foot pain, the body automatically reacts by reducing the mobility and function of the foot, preventing natural movement from occurring. Doctors call this compensation a biomechanical change, and forcing the foot to function the way it functions before the pain can cause further injury to the foot and/or other parts of the body.
Foot Pain Symptoms
Foot pain and tenderness are the two common signs that something is wrong with your foot. Depending on the exact cause of the condition, it can come with swelling, redness and/or bruising. Pain can be a tingling sensation, numbness, or shooting pain, especially if it’s caused by an injury.
Foot pain also causes issues with mobility and affects the foot’s range of motion and weight bearing ability. Often, it changes a person’s natural walking motion which can lead to further issues.
Pain can be accompanied by tenderness if it’s a result of sprain. There could be a lump or a gap if it’s caused by a fracture or dislocation. Weakness in joint contraction also occurs if the pain is caused by a strain, along with tenderness, swelling, and loss of function.
Possible Causes of Foot Pain
As discussed earlier, the foot is quite a complex part of the body, which means problems that lead to foot pain can come in many different forms. Some of the most common causes include disease, biomechanical conditions, deformities, injuries, and even the use of improper footwear.
Infectious conditions such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, can cause foot pain. Plantar warts for example, are one of the most common skin conditions for the feet, and it is caused by irritation which leads to pain. Athlete’s foot on the other hand, results from fungal infection, which can lead to irritation and pain.
Biomechanical conditions such as tightness of the muscles and tendons, flatfeet, and high arched feet results to imbalances of the muscles, which can cause issues.
Physical deformities such as bunions, calcaneal varus, calcaneal valgus, claw toes, tarsal coalitions, mallet toes or bone spurs can also in pain.
Systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, gout, diabetes, and lupus causes foot pain, with rheumatoid arthritis and gout resulting inflammation in the joints.
Acute injuries caused by trauma or by accumulative and repetitive movement are also a common cause of foot pain. Running on uneven surfaces that are too hard or too soft, for example, can cause injuries to the internal structures of the foot and on the skin, which doctors call microtrauma injuries. Wearing the wrong shoes for the activity or shoes which fit poorly can also lead to microtrauma injuries. Wearing high heels regularly can lead to forefoot pain for some people.
Possible Treatments for Foot Pain
When foot pain interferes with your normal daily activities, then you should seek medical attention.
As with other medical conditions, treatment for foot pain largely depends on the doctor’s diagnosis, which revolves around determining the cause of pain. Doctors may use one or several combinations of medication, stretching and strengthening, orthotics, physical therapy, or even surgery to repair the damage of the foot, depending on the needs of the patient.
For the diagnosis, doctors will examine the structure of the feet and look for signs and symptoms of various conditions. Doctors will also recommend imaging tests to better see and understand the condition, such as an x-ray, an MRI and even a bone scan.
Treatments for foot pain are specifically directed to the cause of pain. Doctors will often recommend RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. To help manage pain, doctors often prescribe over-the-counter pain relievers to patients.