While joint pain of any kind can put a serious damper on your ability to participate in sports or exercise regularly, pain in the feet can be especially debilitating. If you’re having difficulty simply staying on your feet throughout the day, a number of conditions could be to blame.
From Morton’s neuroma in the ball of your foot to Achilles tendonitis in the ankle, the first step to seeking relief from your pain is identifying its source. We’ve identified the most common conditions that affect the feet, and what you can do to address your symptoms.
1. BACK OF THE FOOT
If you’re experiencing burning, swelling, or stiffness in the back of your foot, you could be suffering from Achilles tendonitis. Most common in athletes whose sports are centered around running, jumping, or lunging, Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon (which controls flexing of the foot or ankle) becomes inflamed due to injury or overuse. The pain may worsen with intense exercise, particularly if you wear tight shoes when working out.
Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be effectively treated by regularly resting and icing the tendon and wearing soft, loose shoes with special orthotic inserts. If the pain persists, taking anti-inflammatory medication or cortisone shots can help. If necessary, you can also opt for a physical therapy program designed to restore the tendon’s range of motion and redevelop the surrounding muscles.
2. BOTTOM OF THE FOOT
Pain in the bottom of the foot could result from several sources — but if it’s concentrated in the heel, the arch, or both, it’s most likely the product of plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. Pain in this area of the foot may also be caused by a heel spur, which is an abnormal bone growth that usually forms in response to poorly fitting shoes, improper posture, or frequent running. Some patients suffer from heel spurs and plantar fasciitis at the same time.
In the case of heel spurs, relief can generally be found through the use of orthotic inserts. Meanwhile, the treatments we recommend for plantar fasciitis are similar to treatments for Achilles tendonitis: rest, icing, orthotic shoe inserts, and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid shots can provide additional relief. If your symptoms don’t improve in a year, you’ll likely need to undergo a short procedure to remove the damaged tissue.
3. SIDE OF THE FOOT
Pain or discomfort on the side of the foot is a common sign of a bunion: a bony protrusion on the side of the big toe that forces it to slant against the remaining toes. In addition to pain and swelling, bunions can alter the shape of your foot, making it more difficult to wear certain shoes.
Bunions are permanent, so if they’re causing you particular distress, you should discuss bunion removal surgery with a qualified orthopedic specialist. Otherwise, wearing wider, more comfortable shoes or custom-made inserts can help.
4. BALL OF THE FOOT
High heels and ill-fitting shoes are the most common source of pain in the ball of the foot, which can be a sign of metatarsalgia or Morton’s neuroma. Metatarsalgia is a more general inflammation, while Morton’s neuroma is a compression or thickening of a nerve in the ball of the foot. For athletes, this pain can be a consequence of repeated stress or overuse.
Metatarsalgia usually responds well to rest and physical therapy, but more advanced cases of Morton’s neuroma may require further treatment. If you still feel pain after trying different shoes and custom shoe inserts, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroid injections, your podiatrist may suggest surgery to remove the damaged portions of the nerve.
If you’re currently experiencing foot pain, the specialists at New York Bone & Joint can help. Our resident podiatrist Dr. Christine M. Ellie has helped hundreds of patients in the tri-state area cope with and recover from their foot and ankle conditions. Contact us today to set up a consultation and take your first step on the road to recovery.