Quick Tips and Tricks for Foot Pain Relief
Have you ever had a nagging pain in your elbow, shoulder, or neck? You try to massage the area, take ibuprofen, or do some basic stretches. It may still hurt a bit, but it’s likely not going to keep you from getting out of bed, off the couch, or into the car.
If you have foot pain, though, it can make your entire life more difficult. We rely on our feet to walk, run, drive, and keep us physically active.
If you have pain when you bear weight on your feet, then basic life tasks are much more complicated. Maybe you can walk and get around, but you have trouble standing for any length of time (for example, when you try to do the dishes). Several conditions and injuries can cause long-term foot pain. Let’s look at acute and chronic foot pain and common foot problems.
How Do Acute and Chronic Pain Differ?
One main way to categorize pain is by how long it affects you. Some pain starts suddenly, but doesn’t last long because it immediately starts healing. Other pain can go on for years. There are two main categories:
- Acute: This is the type of pain that normally comes from an injury. Acute pain is usually biting, stabbing, sharp, or throbbing, but it starts to get better immediately as the injury or trauma to the body tissue heals. A cut, scratch, bruise, broken bone, torn muscle, or ankle sprain are examples of acute pain.
- Chronic: If your pain goes on for months, years, or decades, you are experiencing chronic pain. Sometimes this type of pain is described as aching, shooting, or burning. Chronic pain can be very hard to deal with, because the cause isn’t always clear.
Pain in the feet can fit into any of several categories depending on what’s causing it and how it hurts. An injury is going to result in some acute, somatic pain, but long-term complications from an injury might also cause chronic pain.
What Are Some Common Conditions Affecting the Feet?
Various factors can cause foot pain, and a few conditions commonly affect the feet and may be to blame for your symptoms.
It’s very common for someone who starts running or doing another active sport to experience frequent foot pain due to plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. When bearing weight on your feet, plantar fasciitis often feels like a stabbing pain in the front of the foot.
Bunions are bone deformities that develop on the side of the big toe from consistent pressure from wearing tight shoes (for example, high heels). Standing for long periods of time can also cause bunions to develop. Bunions are extremely common, affecting roughly up to a third of Americans.
Similar to bunions, heel pain caused by bone spurs happens when calcium deposits build up on the heel, causing inflammation. Sometimes they can develop because of overcompensation on the feet from conditions like plantar fasciitis. Wearing the wrong size shoes is a common cause of heel spurs, and wearing a shoe with good arch support can help.
When the ball of the foot (where you bear a lot of your weight) is inflamed or agitated, this can lead to metatarsalgia. This pain can feel like an aching or a sharp, shooting pain when you try to walk. There are many different causes of metatarsalgia, including arthritis, but often simply using shoe inserts like orthotics can clear up the issue.
Corns don’t always cause pain. They are calluses that build up from too much rubbing on the feet from tight shoes, repeated pressure (from repetitive activities, like playing an instrument), or going without socks frequently. If they build up enough, they can become painful.
Caused by damage to the nerves, neuropathy can come and go. It may be affected by overuse, temperature, or even diet. Neuropathy can be a very frustrating condition because it’s not always clear what’s agitating it to cause nerve pain. Because there isn’t a cure, treating neuropathy involves managing symptoms and flare-ups.
This form of arthritis can affect multiple joints in the body, but is most commonly associated with pain in the big toe. Gout happens because uric acid builds up in the joints, and causes inflammation. It can be an extremely painful condition and can come in “attacks” that come on suddenly and without warning.
What Are the Treatment Options for Foot Pain?
There’s a wide variety of options for treating pain in the feet. The specific condition or cause of the pain will determine what works best, but it’s always best to talk with your podiatrist about your particular case.
Here are a few medical treatments that can help you deal with persistent foot pain:
A common way of dealing with foot pain is by receiving a steroid injectionat the sight of the discomfort. Steroid shots are designed to lessen pain by copying the natural hormones that our bodies use to deal with inflammation. Sometimes doctors will try injections before attempting to do surgery to see if the pain will clear up so surgery can be avoided.
Using over-the-counter NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or pain relievers like acetaminophen can be sufficient for low-level pain. For more intense pain, narcotic pain relievers, muscle relaxers, nerve medication, or oral steroids can be prescribed by a doctor depending on the specific condition.
Building the muscles around joints and bones is very important for rehabilitation or preventing injury. Getting help from a professional physical therapist is a great way to work on getting mobility in your feet back while making sure that further damage isn’t done.
In more severe cases, it might be necessary to have an operation to fix a problem in the foot. Fractures, severe bone deformities, damage from conditions like arthritis or neuropathy, or any condition that makes it impossible to walk might be reasons to go under the knife.
Of course, this should generally be a last resort, as invasive surgeries can often also create scar tissue that may cause long-term pain as well.
What Are Some At-Home Tips and Tricks for Foot Pain Relief?
Aside from conventional treatment methods for pain relief, there are also a few at-home tips and tricks that may help you ease your symptoms.
A few home remedies and easy ways to manage your pain include:
- Switching your shoes: Wear comfortable shoes! If you have any pain that you think is coming from your shoes, change them quickly. Talk to a podiatrist about inserts that might relieve foot pain.
- Getting a massage: You can see a professional massage therapist for more complicated pain issues, but you can also give yourself a foot massage. Loosening up the muscles and breaking up tension is a great way to get some fast relief.
- Using insoles: Using shoe insoles (sometimes called inserts) prevents the pain of putting too much pressure on your feet by adding more support to your arch. These can provide pain relief if your foot discomfort is coming from physical problems like plantar fasciitis, low back pain, or arthritis.
- Using ice and heat: A simple way to relieve foot pain is to apply either hot or cold to the area. If inflammation is the issue, an ice pack or cool patch can ease the pain. For muscular issues, soaking the feet in warm water or using a jacuzzi can effectively relax the muscles and provide a soothing feeling. Hot soaking the feet using Epsom salts can provide even more pain relief.
- Trying topical rubs: Topicals refer to creams, balms, oils, and lotions that are applied to the skin. There are many varieties of topicals available today that can help with foot pain. Some topicals (like menthol) work by providing a cooling sensation to the area they’re applied. Other topicals numb an area of pain with medicine (like lidocaine).
- Resting: If your feet are hurting you, the first thing to do is to stop anything that’s causing you more pain. Sometimes inflammation can arise from doing activities your body isn’t accustomed to, and just laying low and resting is enough to feel better.
Getting Back to Getting Around
Foot pain, especially if it’s severe, can be extremely debilitating because we rely on our feet for so much of our mobility. If pain in your feet is keeping you from getting around like you used to be able to, try some of these tips and tricks to get you “back on your feet.”
If you can’t walk, or can only do so with excruciating pain, don’t wait — talk to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Don’t settle for sore feet!
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