Foot Pain Treatment
What Causes Foot Pain?
Foot pain is common, especially as we age. Repetitive overuse injuries, trauma, and inflammatory conditions can all contribute to foot pain causes and conditions. Even simply wearing ill-fitting shoes without ample cushioning can cause foot discomfort. At Balcones Pain Consultants, we treat many different types of foot pain causes and conditions, including injured or inflamed tendons, muscles, bones, nerves, or connective tissues in the foot that trigger ongoing discomfort. Fortunately, many types of foot pain are treatable and easily managed with the help of a caring healthcare provider.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot pain conditions. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the heel bone and the toes. When this tissue becomes inflamed due to repetitive overuse or injury, sharp pain results. Often worst first thing in the morning, the pain is typically described as a stabbing sensation in the bottom of the foot, usually in or near the heel. Plantar fasciitis is common among runners as well as people who are overweight, those who work long hours on their feet, or individuals who regularly wear flat-soled shoes with little cushioning.
Another inflammatory condition that can cause foot pain is tendinitis, which is the inflammation of the tendons connecting muscle to bone. Tendinitis can occur anywhere throughout the body, including in the foot, especially the heel. This condition can result in a dull ache or tenderness in the joint accompanied by mild swelling.
Various types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, are also inflammatory conditions which can cause foot pain. Typically, foot pain due to arthritic conditions is characterized by tender, swollen joints that may be warm to the touch. Stiffness and loss of flexibility can also result from arthritic conditions in the foot. Sometimes, bone spurs can form—projections of bone that develop at the joints, compounding the foot pain. Gout, which typically affects the big toe joint, comes on suddenly and is often characterized by extreme tenderness or a burning sensation in the toe.
Injury and Trauma to the Foot
Injury or trauma to the foot can be another cause of acute or chronic foot pain. Broken bones, stress fractures and avulsion fractures require medical attention, and each can result in ongoing foot pain, even after the break has healed. Stretches and other controlled exercises designed to promote flexibility and restore range of motion can greatly reduce foot pain linked to these conditions.
Peripheral neuropathy and diabetic neuropathy result from nerve damage that can cause pain in the foot. Peripheral neuropathy causes weakness, numbness and burning pain in the feet and ankles. When this condition is the result of high blood sugar, it is called diabetic neuropathy. Fortunately, in the case of diabetic neuropathy, controlling blood sugar levels can also control nerve pain in the feet.
Physical malformations of the feet can also cause chronic pain. Bunions—bulging, bony bumps at the base of the biggest or littlest toe—can be inherited, or can be caused by arthritis or repetitive stress. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or tight can also cause or aggravate bunions. Similarly, flatfeet can either be inherited or develop due to injury or repetitive stress and can be aggravated by ill-fitting footwear. Flatfeet doesn’t always cause pain, but when it does, it can extend beyond the feet and affect the ankles and knees.
Hammertoe and mallet toe are toe malformations that can be caused by inherited genetics, injury or repetitive stress, or aggravated by poor choices in footwear. Fortunately, pain from these conditions, along with pain from bunions and flatfeet, can be alleviated by roomier, more cushioned shoes, orthopedic footwear, or orthotic inserts.
How is Foot Pain Treated?
Some foot pain conditions can be managed at home with special stretching techniques and exercises, while others can be prevented or alleviated with proper diet and footwear. If foot pain is severe or ongoing, however, Balcones Pain Consultants can help with expert advice, targeted physical therapy, and other specialized approaches.
Treatments for foot pain can vary, depending on the underlying cause or condition. The experts at Balcones Pain Consultants can help you treat certain causes of foot pain with gentle exercises and stretching techniques, and can recommend supportive lifestyle changes such as proper footwear or dietary changes. In cases when the pain is ongoing or severe, Balcones Pain Consultants can treat foot pain with braces, targeted physical therapy, oral or topical medications, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, joint or epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, or surgery.
Treating Foot Pain Due to Inflammatory Conditions
Foot pain from tendinitis can be quite debilitating since it interferes with the ability to walk and exercise. Anti-inflammatory medications, including NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), can help reduce the pain and inflammation of tendinitis conditions.
Plantar fasciitis is a form of tendinitis that is common among people with flat feet or high arches, individuals who are overweight or those who work long hours on hard surfaces. For those reasons, treating foot pain from plantar fasciitis involves staying off the feet as much as possible, to give the inflamed tendon a chance to heal. Icing the heel is also effective in reducing pain and inflammation from this condition, as are gentle stretching and physical therapy exercises. Orthopedic footwear with proper arch support can significantly reduce plantar fasciitis pain. Some people with this condition must temporarily wear a walking cast or a positional splint while sleeping, and chronic or severe cases of plantar fasciitis may require surgery.
Foot pain from arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout, can be reduced with NSAIDs. Lifestyle changes focused on reducing weight and increasing rest for the affected foot, are also important ways to treat foot pain due to arthritis. Steroid injections directly into the affected joints can also help reduce pain, along with orthotic shoe inserts and physical therapy. Certain exercises can help reduce foot pain, while others may exacerbate pain and swelling. For some people with severe foot pain due to arthritis, surgery may be a necessary part of a treatment plan.
Injury and Trauma to the Foot
Treatments for acute or chronic foot pain due to injuries to the foot include splinting, bracing, or casting along with crutches, pain medication, and physical therapy. Sometimes, treatments for foot pain due to injury includes nerve blocks or, in cases of severe fractures, surgery.
Treatments for foot pain due to peripheral neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy involve treating not just the pain itself but also the underlying condition that is causing the nerve damage and related discomfort. Certain medications, such as painkillers and antidepressants, can successfully treat foot pain from neuropathy. Anesthetic skin patches can also provide temporary, localized foot pain relief. In the case of diabetic neuropathy, dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce foot pain associated with this condition. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can also be an effective treatment for foot pain related to nerve damage.
Since bunions and flatfeet can both be caused and aggravated by wearing ill-fitting, overly tight or too-flat shoes, treatment for foot pain due to these conditions can involve recommending better footwear. Similarly, conditions like hammertoe and mallet toe can be aggravated by poor choices in footwear and may require alternative shoe choices. Foot pain from any of these conditions can be reduced by wearing shoes with better cushioning or arch support, specialized orthopedic footwear or orthotic inserts. As with most cases of foot pain, pain that results from physical malformations of the foot or toes can be temporarily reduced with the use of medications like NSAIDs.
Advanced Treatments for Foot Pain Management
Your caring provider at Balcones Pain Consultants will work with you to develop a specialized treatment plan for reducing or eliminating your foot pain. Severe or chronic pain which does not respond to other treatments, or which significantly impacts your life or activity level, may be treated with more advanced methods. It’s important to let your healthcare provider at Balcones Pain Consultants know about all your symptoms, so that we can help you to return to living life as smoothly and quickly as possible. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about the many treatment options available, including: