The warm weather has brought with it a seasonal spike in the amount of foot pain we are seeing in the clinic. We are featuring two of the more common types that we have seen this summer.
“Itis” just means inflammation, so tendonitis is essentially an inflammation of the tendon. Tendons are essentially like elastic bands, and joint our muscles to the bone. We have lots of these in the foot and ankle, as there isn’t much room in the area for big muscles, and any of these tendons can get inflamed and painful. This type of pain is very bad first thing in the morning and often starts out just with this symptom, but as it gets worse it can become painful when you are on your feet, and throb when you are resting.
The important thing about managing tendonitis is that you catch it early and nip it in the bud. This is so important, as after about 2 weeks of tendonitis, the tendon starts to wear down, and more permanent changes happen to the structure of the tendon. This can leave you with a chronic problem, which, while treatable, requires a bit more expertise, time and effort to address.
The most common area for heel pain is shown in the picture above. This type of pain in the heel can often be caused by heel spurs, or a bruised heel. This sort of pain usually comes on gradually and for no obvious reason, and is typically worse in the morning, improves with exercise (only in the early stages), and is aggravated by standing and eventually walking.
Sometimes this can be caused by tightness in the plantar fascia, which is a soft tissue structure on the sole of our foot. This can get tight from exercising either excessively or with poor support for the foot, and this tightness can then pull on the heel and cause pain. It can also be caused by walking on shoes with too hard a heel, which can essentially bruise the bone.
Again, the important thing when treating heel pain is to settle it down quickly. We usually do this in the clinic by providing some form of small insert to take the pressure off the painful part of the heel. Taping the foot can often help it to feel better more quickly, as can ice massage of the area and loosening out any tightness that may have caused it.
So it is very important to catch it early and fix the problem. There are very often obvious explanations for why you got the pain, if this is the case it is important to eliminate the cause so that you don’t keep encouraging the tendon or heel to be inflamed.
Examples of causes of foot pain in summer-time are:
1. Walking or running on the beach - this is great for working the leg and foot muscles, however if it is something that you are not used too, and you suddenly started doing alot of it, it can just prove to be a bit much for your feet.
2. Walking or being on your feet for long periods barefoot or in bad flip-flops – if you have flat feet, or feet that are used to cushioning and support, and then you suddenly throw away all of that support and spend long periods in poor or no support (either standing, just being active, or exercising), this again can overwork parts of the foot that are not used to it, and eventually cause those structures to start complaining. Likewise if you have a high arch and suddenly start going barefoot this can irritate the foot.
3. Getting out more! Nice weather encourages us to get outdoors, which is just fantastic. But again, if we go too hard too soon, and push our body beyond its limit and keep pushing it, the structures don’t get enough time to recover by the next exercise session, and they get overworked and damaged. So if you are taking up or resuming an activity, make sure you factor in recovery days, and try to build up gradually. Stretching tight muscles will help to keep things moving more smoothly. See examples of leg stretches here:
4. Weight gain over being overweight or obese puts more pressure on our feet.
How do I treat foot pain if I get it?
Catching and managing it early is key. If the pain is less than 2 weeks old:
1. Rest from whatever activity you think may have caused the problem.
2. Ice the area regularly (10 mins on, 10 mins off and repeat regularly).
3. Taking anti-inflammatory medication or gel can be beneficial (once there is no medical reason why you shouldn’t be taking it).
4. Stretch out tight muscles in the area.
5. Think about your footwear- generally trying to wear something with some arch support, good cushioning and a slight lift at the back of the shoe.
If all of the above doesn’t clear the pain within a week, you have the pain longer than that or it is severe, it is wisest to get it seen to, before longer term issues develop in the foot. We can assess the problem and advise a treatment plan to sort it out. The earlier it is managed correctly the quicker and more complete your recovery, so don’t take any chances. Also bear in mind that these are just 2 examples of foot pain, there are many other causes, so it is important to get assessed to ensure things are dealt with correctly.