Each foot contains 28 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons, all of which work together to provide mobility. We rely on our feet to take us everywhere. In fact, the average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps per day, which translates to nearly two miles. So when something goes awry with our feet, getting around becomes a whole lot more challenging.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association, approximately 77 percent of US adults have experienced foot pain. What’s more, nearly half of all adults answered that foot pain has restricted their daily activities in some way. But what exactly contributes to these foot problems? It’s not always easy to tell whether you can improve your condition by switching out your footwear or whether you might need more serious orthopedic treatments to recover. Here are some of the most common foot ailments to watch out for, as well as your best options for medical care.
If you’ve noticed a large bump developing on the side of your big toe, it’s possible you may have a bunion. It’s often caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or by standing for too long, which puts pressure on the metatarsophalangeal joint. As a result, women are more likely to develop bunions than men are. Bunions can also be hereditary or caused by other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or polio.
Aside from the visible bump, other bunion symptoms may include tenderness, pain, and difficulty moving the big toe. Typically, bunions can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers and properly-fitting shoes. However, some patients may benefit from bunion pads, icing the area, or having custom shoe inserts made. In the most serious of cases, surgery may be necessary.
The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that heel pain is one of the most prominent foot problems US adults experience. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons ranks plantar fasciitis as the most common cause of heel pain, with nearly 2 million patients being treated for this condition each year. Inflammation of the plantar fascia, located on the bottom of the foot, can result in pain in the heel that may be more pronounced upon waking or during physical activity.
Although there isn’t always a clear cause, having a high arch or tight calf muscles may be a contributing factor. Patients who are obese or who engage in activities like running may also be more likely to experience this condition. Home treatment — which may consist of rest, icing the foot, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, and stretching — is effective for many patients. Physical therapy, steroid injections, or other specialized treatments such as insoles for plantar fasciitis can help.
It may seem far-fetched that something as simple as a toenail could cause significant pain, but anyone who’s ever dealt with ingrown toenails knows all too well the discomfort this condition can cause. When a toenail begins to grow into the nail groove, you may experience tenderness or even infections. Poorly fitting shoes, improper nail trimming, foot trauma, or a family history of this condition may all play a role in its development.
In milder cases, ingrown toenails may be successfully treated using pain relievers, topical antibiotics, and warm foot soaks. More severe cases, which may be indicated by bleeding, pus, or severe pain, may require surgical treatment to correct the issue and relieve discomfort.
Overuse of the Achilles tendon (which are the tissues that connect the heel to the calf muscles) can result in Achilles tendinitis. Typically, this condition presents itself in individuals who suddenly or repeatedly strain these muscles, often through athletic activities. Because the Achilles weakens with age, older people–especially men–who overestimate their physical abilities may be more prone to developing this condition. It can usually be identified by pain, stiffness, or tenderness in the aforementioned area.
Because Achilles tendinitis can weaken the tendon, this condition makes it more likely for a patient to experience a tear in this area. To avoid the need for surgery, it’s best to take preventative action. Giving careful thought to your footwear choices, avoiding activities that place excessive strain on the area, partaking in regular stretching activities, and gradually increasing your activity level can reduce your risk of developing this condition. If you do think you may be experiencing Achilles pain, you can visit a medical facility that offers an extensive array of urgent care services or contact a podiatrist to receive a definitive diagnosis.
Even if you take excellent care of your body, chances are that you will experience some level of foot pain at a certain point in your life. If and when you do, it’s essential to reduce the physical stress on your feet and see a foot care professional to determine the cause. That way, you’ll be able to treat the problem before it gets worse.