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Foot/Ankle Pain

Our feet are responsible for bearing the body weight we are standing. As a result, foot pain is a very common health issue. Foot pain can range from severe to mild, and it might be a chronic or acute problem.

Below are some of the most common causes of foot pain.

Our ankles are one of our bodies most complex joints, and are in frequent motion. Like the foot, the ankle bears the entire weight of our body, and even a slight injury can cause sever pain.

CAUSES OF ANKLE PAIN

Ankle pain may be caused by an injury, such as a sprain, or by a medical condition, such as arthritis.

ANKLE SPRAIN

An ankle sprain is one of the most common causes of ankle pain. A sprain occurs when your ligaments (the tissues that connect bones) tear or get overstretched.

Most ankle sprains are lateral sprains, which occur when your foot rolls, causing your outside ankle to twist toward the ground. This action stretches or rips the ligaments. Rolling the ankle can also cause damage to the cartilage or tendons of your ankle.
A sprained ankle often swells and bruises for about seven to 14 days. However, it may take a few months for a severe injury to heal fully.

ARTHRITIS

Many forms of arthritis and related conditions can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the ankles. They include:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a chronic condition caused by the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. This breakdown causes the bones to rub together, causing stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement. While weight-bearing joints, such as knees and hips, are more commonly affected by, OA, the ankles can be affected too. As you age, the cartilage that cushions your joints starts to wear down, causing the bones to rub together. The bone-on-bone action leads to inflammation of the joints. Cartilage is meant to be a shock absorber that helps your joints move smoothly. When cartilage wears down, the bone-to-bone rubbing can produce a number of abnormal sensations. Grating of the joints is common in people with OA. It’s the manifestation of the bones rubbing together. You might also feel or hear your joints clicking or cracking when you move.
  • Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid builds up in the bloodstream and forms needle-shaped crystals. The sharp crystals lodge in tissues of the body, including the joints. For many people, the first symptom of gout is severe pain and swelling in the big toe. Future attacks may come and go affecting different joints, including the ankles. After years with the disease, lumps of uric acid, called tophi, may form beneath the skin around the ankles.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that occurs when excess uric acid builds up in the bloodstream and forms needle-shaped crystals. The sharp crystals lodge in tissues of the body, including the joints. For many people, the first symptom of gout is severe pain and swelling in the big toe. Future attacks may come and go affecting different joints, including the ankles. After years with the disease, lumps of uric acid, called tophi, may form beneath the skin around the ankles.

COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME (CRPS)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. CRPS typically develops after an injury, a surgery, a stroke or a heart attack. The pain is out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.

CRPS is uncommon, and its cause isn’t clearly understood. Treatment is most effective when started early. In such cases, improvement and even remission are possible.

CAUSES OF FOOT PAIN

Posterior tibial tendinitis
The posterior tibialis is a tendon that attaches to the foot’s bottom near your medial arch and courses down the inner lower leg. It is important in supporting the natural arch of your foot. Any irritation or inflammation in this part might lead to pain, flatfoot deformity, as well as limited walking capability. Fortunately, this issue can be treated easily with orthotics, anti-inflammatory modalities, balance exercises and prescribed exercises for strength and flexibility.

Fasciitis
One of the most common triggers of foot pain is plantar fasciitis. It is caused by irritation in the plantar fascia, a thick tissue band that runs across the foot’s bottom. This part helps connect your toes to your heel bone. People with this condition might have pain at the bottom of their foot, often near the heel’s inner part. Discomfort can be more common after intense exercises or waking up in the morning. Possible treatments for plantar fasciitis might help alleviate inflammation and ensure the biomechanics of the whole lower extremity, ankle, and foot. You can also perform some exercises, such as balance, strengthening, or stretching.

Metatarsalgia
Metatarsalgia is a health issue that refers to the pain in the foot around the toes. It is typically caused when you place a heightened stress load on this part during some prolonged exercises, such as running or jumping. If left untreated over time, this issue would make the bones become painful and swollen. It is important to visit a doctor as soon as possible to prevent further damages and inflammation to your feet and other surrounding areas.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition that happens when the main nerve going to your feet is compressed by tissue or bone. Many people are familiar with the term “carpal tunnel syndrome,” a similar problem that occurs in the wrist. You might feel this condition on the inside of your foot region. Some common symptoms include shooting, tingling and burning feelings. Prescribed exercises can be the simplest way to help alleviate the pain.

Turf toe
Turf toe is the sprain located at the base of your great toe. This condition is caused when your big toe is bent back beyond the usual range of motions. It usually happens when you kick a ball, then miss it and chunk the ground. Turf toe might lead to a tear in the foot ligaments which support it. You might experience this pain during running and walking activities. In addition, toe cramping is also common. Some physical therapies for turf toe might help alleviate inflammation around the toe and foot or restore normal mobility.

Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term inflammatory disorder. It can affect the whole body, including your feet. A common effect of this condition is that the bones might begin to deviate and angulate when you do not sit straight. As a result, the toe joints would feel stiff, swollen, and tender. In many cases, you might also have rheumatoid nodules, which are joints growths that look like a ball and extremely painful. If you suspect the presence of rheumatoid or have any family member with this condition, visit a doctor immediately to avoid further complications.

Gout
Gout is a kind of arthritis. It can be hereditary or caused when the kidneys are not functioning properly. The condition leads to a lack of some enzymes to break down uric acids in seafood, heavy sauces, and meats. Over time, these urate crystals thicken and go to colder body parts, often your big toe joints. The joints will swell, feel hot, look red, and can be very sensitive to touch.

However, the same symptoms may also indicate an infection. Thus, make sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible for a precise diagnosis.

Diabetic neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes. High blood sugar (glucose) can injure nerves throughout your body. It may affect as many as 50% of people with diabetes.

Diabetic neuropathy most often damages nerves in your legs and feet. Depending on the affected nerves, diabetic neuropathy symptoms can range from pain and numbness in your legs and feet to problems with your digestive system, urinary tract, blood vessels and heart. Some people have mild symptoms. But for others, diabetic neuropathy can be quite painful and disabling.

Neuropathic pain
Neuropathic pain is often described as a shooting or burning pain. It can go away on its own but is often chronic. Sometimes it is unrelenting and severe, and sometimes it comes and goes. It often is the result of nerve damage or a malfunctioning nervous system.

Neuropathic pain often seems to have no obvious cause. But some common causes of neuropathic pain include alcoholism, chemotherapy, diabetes, facial nerve problems, multiple myeloma, shingles, nerve or spinal cord compression from a herniated disc or thyroid problems.

In cases that are difficult to treat, our doctors may use an invasive or implantable device to effectively manage the pain. Electrical stimulation of the nerves involved in neuropathic pain may significantly control the pain symptoms.

Treatment Options for Foot/Ankle Pain

The best initial treatment for ankle or foot pain is “RICE”—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If pain persists, however, medical attention may be required.