What is Foot Pain?
The foot is an incredibly complex structure, made up of 26 bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that all work in unison to allow the body to move. Since your feet are responsible not only for providing mobility but for bearing the entire weight of your body, they are prone to both injury and pain.
Foot pain is an incredibly common complaint and because of the nature of the foot itself, can have a wide variety of causes. While one can limit the loading and use of any other body part, the foot is loaded and used all day long – every day!
What Causes Foot Pain?
The foot is a complex structure and as such, foot pain can be caused by any number or combination of problems in the bones, ligaments, tendons or muscles in the foot.
In most cases, the root cause of foot pain can be identified by the location of the pain and comparing it to the most commonly known causes of foot pain. In addition, diagnostic modalities such as imaging (X-Ray, MRI, Bone scan, CT) can assist a physician. To correctly diagnose a problem in the foot, your physician must have a very deep understanding of the foot’s anatomy and biomechanics.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is the result of degeneration of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and exists to support the arch of the foot. When the plantar fascia degenerates over time, it can result in periods of pain, most common when first getting out of bed or after extended periods of rest.
Pain in the arch of the foot, like heel pain, is most often a result of plantar fasciitis, which affects both the heel and the arch of the foot. Treatments for plantar fasciitis can often resolve arch pain as many of the same treatments address the most common causes of arch pain.
Flat feet (fallen arches) are also a very common cause of arch pain. Flat feet occur when the arches of the feet flatten over time, causing pain and additional problems in the foot. In general, flat feet can be treated with orthotics or changing to a more sturdy shoe as well as physical therapy. Often, a flat foot is due to a biomechanical failure of the tendon responsible for the arch. This may be treated in a variety of ways as well.
Other Causes of Foot Pain
There are hundreds of different causes of foot pain, and while we have highlighted those that are closely related to plantar fasciitis, there are many other major conditions that are leading causes of foot pain, including:
- Bone spurs
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Ingrown toenails
- Stress fractures
- Arthritic conditions
- Nerve dysfunction
- Mechanical failure
Foot pain can have any number of causes. Treatment is often contingent upon the cause of pain for the foot
- Poor Shoe Wear
- Poorly Sized Shoes
- Large mass relative to height
- Inadequate time and devices for tissue rest
- Arthritic conditions
In order to receive proper treatment for your foot pain, it is important to seek professional medical help to identify the root cause of your foot pain. As many of the causes of foot pain can share the same symptoms, having professional help can make for a better diagnosis and can help direct you to the right treatment method.
During your appointment, your doctor will ask a series of questions to determine where the pain is occurring and what activities may be leading to the foot pain you’re experiencing. The doctor will then perform a physical examination of the foot. Diagnostic studies such as x-rays, ultrasound, MRI and/or injections may be needed.
Treatment for foot pain will vary greatly depending on the cause of the pain and where the pain is occurring. For conditions like plantar fasciitis, treatments will include stretching, splinting and physical therapy. For conditions like flat feet, insoles may be recommended along with focused physical therapy. Treatment for foot pain may range from better fitting shoes to surgery.