Foot pain is a widespread problem caused by a number of causes that, in most cases, can be solved on your own at home. If the pain becomes intense or persistent, however, it is advisable to consult your doctor.
The most common causes of foot pain are:
- sprains and strains
- blisters, corns and calluses
- hallux valgus
- ingrown toenails
- plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
- Morton's neuroma
- Achilles tendon injuries
- foreign bodies in the skin
- problems related to diabetic foot
- cracked or broken bone (fracture)
Sprains and strains
Sprains and strains are very frequent disorders that affect muscles and ligaments (resistant bands of tissue placed around the joints that join the bones together). Often they occur as a result of sudden acceleration of movements, rapid changes of direction, falls or unexpected collisions with an object or a person as can occur, for example, by practicing some sports. Sprain occurs when one or more ligaments are damaged as a result of a twist. Stretching, on the other hand, occurs when muscle fibers stretch excessively and suffer damage.
Both sprains and strains can cause swelling, bruising and soreness and prevent loading the weight of the body on the foot.Most sprains and strains can be treated at home using the so-called P.R.I.C.E. therapy: protection, rest, ice (in English Ice), compression and elevation and, in consultation with your doctor, on pain relieving medicines.
Gout is a type of arthritis caused by the accumulation in the joints of a waste product of the body, uric acid, in the form of crystals. It causes sudden attacks of intense pain, redness, swelling and warmth in the affected joints, including a rest These complaints usually last a few days and most often affect the joint of the big toe (first toe). In some cases, it can be difficult to distinguish gout from a very inflamed bunion. Pain caused by gout can generally be treated with ice packs and by taking non-steroidal pain relieving and anti-inflammatory drugs (INSAIDs). Any additional care can prevent further episodes.
Warts are small growths that usually develop on the soles of the feet. They can become painful when walking or placing your body weight on the affected area. They are easily identifiable and appear as small white circles of skin that often have a black dot in the center. Most warts go away on their own but it can take a long time. There are ointments, gels and patches on the market that can be purchased without a prescription (over-the-counter medicines) that can be useful for treating warts.
Blisters, corns and calluses
Shoes that do not fit properly cause friction on the foot can cause:
- blisters, small, liquid-filled pockets that form in the top layer of the skin
- corns, thickening of the skin that sometimes causes pain
- calluses, areas of hard, rough skin often yellowish in color
When they do occur, walking can be painful and uncomfortable.
Most blisters heal spontaneously within days without the need for medical attention. Wearing comfortable, well-built shoes can prevent them from appearing and reduce the risk of them coming back once healed.
Corns and calluses do not always regress spontaneously, in some cases it may be necessary to contact a pedicure or a podiatrist for an opinion on the most suitable way to treat them.
Hallux valgus consists of a deformation of the big toe which is often accompanied by an inflamed and swollen area at the base of the big toe which can cause pain when wearing shoes or walking. It is a common problem, especially among women. If it is not treated it can worsen, therefore, it is advisable to consult your family doctor to evaluate how to intervene to correct it. Usually, in the initial phase, non-surgical remedies are preferred such as wearing comfortable and wide shoes, using orthotics (insoles aimed at rebalancing the relationships between the different bones that make up the sole of the foot), using pain relieving drugs and using pads. Corrective surgery may sometimes be required.
The ingrown toenail forms when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin, causing redness, swelling, and soreness. You may also feel pain if you press on the toe or if the toe becomes infected. Trim the toenails straight. and gently pulling the skin away from the nail using a cotton swab can help regress the ingrown toenail. In some cases it may be necessary to remove part of the nail or the entire nail.
Plantar fasciosis is caused by damage to the fascia of tissue (plantar fascia) that extends from the base of the toes to the heel and causes pain.In most cases, it affects people between the ages of forty and sixty, who are overweight or who stand for a long time. The pain is generally localized to the heel, tends to develop gradually over time and worsens in the morning upon awakening and end of the day. Resting, doing regular stretching exercises, applying ice packs, taking pain relievers, and wearing shoes that fit well and support the foot can often relieve pain. In a small number of cases, other treatments, such as physiotherapy or a course of injections may be necessary, and in severe cases surgery is required.
Morton's neuroma is a disease caused by an increase in volume of one of the nerves located between the toes, usually the one between the third and fourth toes, due to continuous irritation. Over time, around the nerve fibrous tissue forms and compresses it to the point of causing intense burning at the base of the toes and giving the typical sensation of having a pebble under the foot or in the shoe. It can occur on one foot or both. The causes are not fully known but factors that favor its development are: inadequate footwear, high heels, hallux valgus, flat or hollow foot, etc. If you suffer from Morton's neuroma it can help to wear wide-fitting shoes, use custom-made insoles or, if necessary, take cortisone medicines or pain relievers to relieve pain. If these treatments fail, surgery may be required.
Metatarsalgia refers to pain that occurs in the anterior part of the sole of the foot, at the bones that make up the metatarsal. It is often described as a burning or sharp pain that can range from mild to severe and that gets worse when walking.It can affect one or more toes, and sometimes the whole foot. Anything that puts too much weight on your foot, such as wearing tight shoes for a long time, playing high-impact sports, or being overweight, can cause pain. Elderly people are more exposed to metatarsalgia which, however, in most cases can be managed through the so-called P.R.I.C.E. therapy.: Protection, Rest, Ice (Ice in English), Compression and Elevation changing shoe types, using shock absorbing insoles or, if necessary, taking pain medication. In rare cases, surgery is required to heal the lesions that occur in the plantar area.
In the elderly, repeated episodes of foot pain and stiffness may indicate a sudden worsening of osteoarthritis. In the long run, this disease causes swelling in the tissues of the joints, up to affecting the big toe (first toe) and the heel joint. The treatment involves wearing appropriate shoes to reduce the stretching of the joints, taking painkillers, applying anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and in some cases surgery is done.
Foot pain can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, although it does not happen frequently. It is a type of arthritis, caused by the body's defense system (immune system), which attacks the joints of the foot and causes inflammation of the tissues. It almost always affects other joints as well, so much so that foot pain may not being the only disturbance (symptom) produced by the disease. The main treatments include the use of drugs to relieve ailments (symptoms) and slow down the evolution of the disease, physiotherapy sessions and, sometimes, surgery.
Achilles tendon injuries
Pain and stiffness in the back of the heel could signal damage to the Achilles tendon (tendinopathy), a bundle of elastic and connective fibers that extends from the calf to the heel. In many cases, pain can be relieved by resting, applying ice packs, and taking pain medication, although complete recovery can take up to several months. Sudden, intense pain in the heel, associated with a snapping sensation, may indicate total or partial rupture (tear) of the tendon. In this case, you should go to the doctor or the emergency room as soon as possible. The break is often treated with immobilization (by means of a plastic or plaster brace) for several weeks. Sometimes surgery is needed to repair it.
If the entire foot is sore, heavy, and swollen, edema may be present. This is a buildup of fluid (mostly water) in the tissues that causes swelling in the affected area. Edema usually affects the entire foot. lower leg. You should contact your family doctor or, if the pain and swelling intensify, go to the emergency room.
Foreign bodies in the skin
Sometimes the pain in the foot can be caused by a foreign body penetrated inside it. In the presence of discomfort or pain, therefore, it is advisable to evaluate whether you have walked on something sharp with bare feet and check if there are injuries that may suggest the presence of foreign bodies. In general, if they are small fragments such as a splinter or a thorn, they can be removed by themselves without particular difficulty. You should wash your hands thoroughly, clean the area and use, if necessary, some tweezers to remove them.The pain should subside once they are eliminated.If, on the other hand, the foreign body has penetrated deeper, it is advisable not to try to remove it yourself, but to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Problems related to the diabetic foot
People with diabetes can have a variety of foot problems, sometimes even serious ones. Diabetes can damage nerves and blood vessels and, in some cases, can cause a lot of pain.
Foot problems that can affect diabetics are:
- nerve injury (peripheral neuropathy) which can cause numbness, burning, stinging or shooting pains in the feet
- poor circulation (ischemia) which can make your feet sore, cold, red and swollen
- skin ulcers, namely painful sores that take a long time to heal
- infections ulcers that become red and swollen and can produce foul odor and pus
The diabetic patient who realizes that he has problems or pains in his feet should contact the family doctor or the specialists who are treating him to assess the need for further information or to receive the most appropriate treatment for his case.
Cracked or broken bone (fracture)
The break or fracture of a bone in the foot can be caused by a serious injury or by a sporting activity, with high impact, continuous over time (such as, for example, running over long distances). Sometimes, it can occur as a consequence of osteoporosis (weakened bones).
The break or fracture can affect any bone in the foot:
- central bones of the foot (like the metatarsal)
- bones of the lower leg
The affected area is very painful, sensitive to the touch and bruised. You should immediately stop all activities and avoid putting your weight on the foot, until you consult a doctor.