What Type of Foot Pain Do You Have?
It pays to know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’ve ever been sent on a quest to find “that thing,” you’re likely well aware of this fact.
(“You know, that thing? With the stuff? The one we used that one time for the other thing?”)
The more information you have, the easier it is to find what you need and get the job done. This is just as true for podiatry as it is anything else in life!
When you have “foot pain,” that can mean many different things. The foot has a great many moving parts in it, and there is a wide variety of problems that can result in different types of pain at different locations.
Now, we don’t expect you to be an expert on self-diagnosing your foot pain. We’ll be sure to get to the root of your problem no matter what. However, it can help both you and us to dive into some of the different types of foot pain that exist. The better you can describe your pain to us, the faster we can narrow down the cause!
Here are a few focus areas of foot pain, along with some types of conditions that may cause them.
Heel pain is a frequent offender, and one of the most common types of foot pain we see. You can generally divide it into two locations: the bottom of the heel and the back of the heel.
Pain felt in the bottom of the heel may be a sign of plantar fasciitis, especially if you feel the pain most when you first get up in the morning or walk around after a long period of inactivity. Heel spurs or stress fractures might also be a potential cause in this location.
Pain felt in the back of the heel, especially when you gently squeeze the area, may be sign of Achilles tendinitis. Bursitis, an inflammation of a protective, fluid-filled sac near the Achilles tendon, might also be the culprit. Bursitis pain may be a bit more localized, tender, warm, and red than you might feel with Achilles tendinitis.
Pain in the Ball of the Foot or Base of the Toes
A common term is given to ball of foot pain (the area between your arch and your toes): metatarsalgia. Don’t worry; you won’t be tested on remembering that name.
The pain of metatarsalgia is often sharp. It can feel like you’re stepping on something, or that a stone is caught in your shoe. However, walking barefoot often makes the pain feel worse.
Metatarsalgia is often caused by excessive or repetitive pressure being placed against the ball of the foot. This may be due to an abnormal foot structure that is shifting weight toward the front of the foot, long-term use of footwear that does the same (such as high heels), or activities that are causing too much repetitive impact against the ball of the foot (such as running or dancing).
If the pain is focused more between the toes, and is more of a burning pain than a sharpness, it could be sign of a neuroma instead. A neuroma is a thickening and inflammation of nerve tissue. You might also hear it referred to as “Morton’s neuroma” when it affects specific spaces of the toes.
The most common demographic for a neuroma is women between the ages of 30 and 50 who have a history of wearing ill-fitting shoes. Anyone can suffer from it, however, and it is also a common problem in runners.
Pain in the Toes
Pain in the toes themselves are often impact-driven. It makes sense, given how they’re on the front lines of our movement. If anything is going to hit a leg of the coffee table, it’s them.
Sudden pain after an impact can naturally mean a sprain or fracture. Swelling and discoloration will often accompany such injuries. Lighter, repetitive impacts can take an eventual toll too, however, causing stress fractures or black toenails.
Arthritis in the joints of the toes is a common possibility as well. Arthritis pain can feel like a general ache, or it can feel like a stabbing sensation when trying to move an affected joint.
One particular form of arthritis, gout, tends to cause severe, sharp pain in the big toe, often at night. Trust us; you will not wonder whether you have gout. It will leave you absolutely no doubt.
Tell Us About Your Foot Pain
The conditions we’ve reviewed here are just a few potential causes of pain in the foot. And even when knowing the cause, there can still be underlying reasons that must be addressed before you can find the long-lasting relief you need.
As noted earlier, telling us details about your pain can be very important initial information and help us zero in on the source of your trouble. What type of information will help most?
- Where do you feel the pain? Be as specific as you can.
- What type of pain is it? Is it a dull ache? Burning? Tingling? Sharp?
- Do you ever feel numbness in your foot as well?
- Is there a certain time of day you tend to feel the pain, or the pain is at its greatest?
- Are there certain activities that tend to cause the pain or make it worse?
- Do you remember when you first noticed this pain? Had you made any changes to your lifestyle, activities, or footwear at that time?
We find that writing down these answers before your appointment can be a big help and help you not forget anything you might want us to know.
We not only want to know answers to the questions above, however; we also want to know about any concerns you have, and if you have any goals or parts of your life that you’re afraid your foot pain is getting in the way of. Knowing these will help us better mold your treatment to your individual needs.
If you have pain that hasn’t improved with home treatment, don’t hold out any longer. Call McVay Foot & Ankle at (719) 266-5000 or use our online contact form to reach out to us. We will listen, and we will help!
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