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Foot pain

Definition

Pain or discomfort can be felt anywhere in the foot. You may have painin the heel, toes, arch, instep, or bottom of foot (sole).

Alternative Names

Pain - foot

Common Causes

Foot pain may be due to:

  • Aging
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time
  • Being overweight
  • Foot deformity that you were born with
  • Injury
  • Shoes that fit poorly or do not have much cushioning
  • Too much walking or other sports activity

The following can cause foot pain:

  • Arthritis and gout -- common in the big toe, which becomes red, swollen, and very tender
  • Broken bones
  • Bunions: A bump at the base of the big toe from wearing narrow-toed shoes.
  • Calluses and corns: Thickened skin from rubbing or pressure. Calluses are on the balls of the feet or heels. Corns appear on the top of your toes.
  • Hammer toes: Toes that curl downward into a claw-like position.
  • Fallen arches: Also called flat feet.
  • Morton's neuroma, a thickening of nerve tissue between the toes
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantar warts: Sores on the soles of your feet due to pressure 
  • Sprains
  • Stress fracture

Home Care

The following steps may help relieve your foot pain:

  • ·   Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  • ·   Raise your painful foot as much as possible.
  • ·   Reduce your activity until you feel better.
  • ·   Wear shoes that fit your feet and are right for the activity you are doing.
  • ·   Wear foot pads to prevent rubbing and irritation.
  • ·   Use an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Talk to your doctor first if you have a history of ulcer or liver problems.)

Other home care steps depend on what is causing your foot pain.

Call your health care provider if

Call your doctor or nurse if:

  • You have sudden, severe foot pain
  • Your foot pain began following an injury, especially if your foot is bleeding or bruising, or you cannot put weight on it
  • You have redness or swelling of the joint, an open sore or ulcer on your foot, or a fever
  • You have pain in your foot and have diabetes or a disease that affects blood flow
  • Your foot does not feel better after using at-home treatments for 1-2 weeks

What to expect at your health care provider's office

Your doctor will perform a physical examination, paying particular attention to your feet, legs, and back, your posture, and how you walk.

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history, such as:

  • Do you have pain in one or both feet?
  • What part of the foot hurts?
  • Does the pain move from joint to joint, or does it always occur in the same place?
  • Did the pain begin suddenly or slowly?
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Is it worse at night or when you first wake up in the morning?
  • Is it getting better?
  • Does anything make your pain feel better or worse?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Do you have numbness in your toes?

X-rays may be done to help your doctor diagnose the cause of your foot pain.

Treatment depends on the exact cause of the foot pain. Treatment may include:

  • A cast, if you broke a bone
  • Removal of plantar warts, corns, or calluses by a foot specialist
  • Orthotics, or shoe inserts
  • Physical therapy to relieve tight or overused muscles
  • Foot surgery

Prevention

The following steps can prevent foot problems and foot pain:

  • ·   Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes, with good arch support and cushioning.
  • ·   Wear shoes with plenty of room around the ball of your foot and toe – wide toe box
  • ·   Avoid narrow-toed shoes and high heels.
  • ·   Wear sneakers as often as possible, especially when walking.
  • ·   Replace running shoes frequently.
  • ·   Warm up and cool down when exercising. Always stretch first.
  • ·   Increase your amount of exercise slowly over time to avoid putting excessive strain on your feet.
  • ·   Lose weight if you need to.
  • ·   Learn exercises to strengthen your feet and avoid pain. This can help flat feet and other potential foot problems.

References

Koenig MD. Ligament injuries. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:section C.

Baer GS, Keene JS. Tendon injuries of the foot and ankle. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:section D.

Brodsky JW, Bruck N. Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:section E.

Klein SE. Conditions of the forefoot. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:section H.

Hirose CB, Clanton TO, Wood RM. Etiology of injury to the foot and ankle. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:section J.

Price MD, Chiodo CP. Foot and ankle pain. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, et al, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2012:chap 43.

Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics.In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 30.


Review Date: 1/17/2013
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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