The foot is a complex machine and if the muscles, bones, joints or ligaments become inflamed it can be painful and debilitating – you may experience intense pain, numbness or a tingly foot.
Your pain may have many different underlying causes, including over-use from too much walking or running, while footwear without the right support may also cause havoc. Then there are stress injuries, including stress fractures, not to mention sprains, strains and other common ailments like plantar fasciitis which is difficult to identify and to treat.
I haven’t even mentioned Achilles tendinitis, which occurs when the Achilles is sore or inflamed and often takes some time to settle down, or arthritis, which is also common in feet.
As you can see, there’s a host of potential problems, making foot pain among the most challenging to diagnose and to recover from. But what are some possible solutions?
The foot is a complicated structure and finding the cause of pain is not always straightforward. It’s important to see a professional rather than hope the pain will go away because foot pain can be long-lived and require treatment before it improves.
An accurate diagnosis by a health professional is the most important first step. For example, foot or ankle? Many foot issues originate in the ankle. Treatment is required to maintain mobility in the ankle joint, increase strength in the calf and perineal muscles, and increase balance using proprioception exercises. One thing many people miss is the mobility of the inferior tibiofibular joint. In my experience over 80 per cent of people do not get this joint treated, and stiffness can cause ongoing problems.
When we pick up an injury there’s often temptation to push through the pain, and hope you will come out the other side. Unfortunately, the only other side awaiting this approach is more prolonged pain. Never forget, pain is your body’s signal to stop. Try to avoid too much time on your feet if you are in genuine pain.
While we don’t want to push through pain, we need to keep some movement in the problem area to maintain healthy blood flow and keep our joints lubricated. If we stay off our feet too long and don’t move them we may find the joints seize up, making it harder to move again. A little movement, often, within tolerable levels of pain, is ideal.
Your foot may require hands-on treatment for it to improve. A health professional such as a physiotherapist may also help you on other issues, such as posture, which often has a surprising effect on your feet.
A health professional may also advise you on whether you may benefit from something like orthotics or other inserts in your shoes. The most important thing with treatment is to expect results – if there’s no improvement at all after three sessions I would recommend looking for a second opinion. If it’s an issue related to chronic pain then you at least want to see a strong plan of action within three sessions with a physio, which should lead to gradual improvement.
Using ice and heat on the pain source may be beneficial, but remember the golden rules – if the injury is hot to touch, use ice. If it’s not hot to touch, but still sore, try using heat. Never use heat on an injury which is already hot to touch.
The right stretches and exercises will be essential – another reason why seeing a health professional is important. With proper diagnosis and treatment they can recommend the appropriate stretches and exercises for your foot. There is no one-size-fits-all for stretches and exercises because the foot is so complex.
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