At the end of a long day, my dogs are often barking.
And no, I don’t mean Fido and Spot. I’m talking about my achy, tired feet.
If you, or a loved one, suffer from tender tootsies from time to time too, you’re in good company. Researchers say a stunning 77 percent of Americans over 18 have battled foot pain at one time or another.
The years of shoving your feet into high heels or stiff dress shoes… and the millions of steps you’ve walked in your lifetime… can really take a toll.
Your foot pain decoded
Sometimes it can be tough to tell when foot pain is just a passing ache. Or when that pain is something more serious.
But spotting the difference between tired feet and a chronic condition is vital for relieving the pain. And I can help.
Following are six important things your foot pain is trying to tell you.
1. Arch pain:
One of the most common causes of pain in the arch of your foot is a condition called plantar fasciitis (PF). When you have PF, the ligaments and tissues which connect your heel to your toes become irritated and inflamed.
PF pain can range from mild to downright debilitating. And for most folks, the ache is the worst first thing in the morning. After the tissues have contracted overnight those first few steps out of bed can be excruciating.
Gently rolling your foot over a can of soup or a tennis ball, concentrating on stretching out the arch, several times a day can help relieve the ache. And icing the bottom of your foot for 15 to 20 minutes at a time several times a day can provide pain relief too.
Your doctor or podiatrist can teach you other stretches which can help with pain relief and healing. As well as exercises that can help strengthen your lower leg muscles to take some of the load off the affected ligaments.
2. Heel pain:
Turns out there’s a good chance that heel pain is plantar fasciitis, too. Because the tissues which are affected start in your heel.
Along with the stretches and icing recommended above, you should make an effort to wear the right shoes. Your shoes should offer better than average support. And be sure to wear arch supports in them as well. Try to purchase new shoes in a real shoe store where you can check the fit and get advice from professionals.
You may also want to consider wearing a special splint at night. It will hold your calf and arch in a flexed position which helps keep your plantar fascia ligaments from tightening up overnight.
3. Pain in the big toe joint:
When you think of joint pain, the obvious culprit is arthritis. But in the case of the joint in your big toe, it turns out it’s often a specific kind of arthritis.
Pain that’s mostly isolated to your big toe joint is a classic sign of gout. This type of arthritis develops when uric acid crystallizes and builds up, settling into the joint.
Typical arthritis treatments can help with the pain including hot and cold therapy and topical pain relievers. And because gout is triggered by high uric acid levels changes to your diet to lower those levels can help prevent flare-ups and joint damage as well.
Cutting back on red meats, organ meats, and alcohol are a good start. Ask your doctor about the best choices for a gout diet. And experts say eating dark cherries is a delicious and effective way to help prevent flare-ups in some folks too.
4. Pain at the side of the big toe:
If your foot pain is mainly coming from a hard nub on the side of your toe, you’re probably looking at a bunion. Years of wearing tight shoes that are too small, or which pinch your toes, can cause them to develop. And high heels can contribute to the problem.
While bunions look like a growth, they’re actually the painful misalignment of the toe joint. To relieve the pain, you MUST invest in shoes that fit correctly. Look for ones with a wide toe box at the front. And you may need to consider moving to a wide-width shoe to give the bunion more room.
You can buy gel-filled pads or moleskin pads to protect the area of the bunion and relieve some pressure. But make sure you wear a wide enough shoe when using one so that you don’t end up just adding MORE stress to the area.
There are bunion splints you can wear at night to gently correct your toe alignment to provide pain relief as well. And losing some weight if you’re carrying around a few extra pounds can help too.
5. Pain in the ball of your foot:
Spending a lot of time in high heels over the years can lead to pain and numbness in the ball of your foot. This condition, called Morton’s neuroma, causes the tissues around the nerves in the balls of your feet to get thick and stiff.
The solution is to opt for more practical flats or shoes with a minimal heel. Gel insoles and ice for pain can help too.
6. General, “all over” burning pain:
If your feet feel like they’re on fire or have electricity running through them, check in with your doctor.
This could just be irritated and inflamed tendons known as tendinitis. But it’s also a classic sign of undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes.
It’s common for feet to hurt at the end of a busy day. But if the pain is chronic, or beyond the typical ache, listen to your feet because they could be trying to tell you something.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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