It’s thanks to your feet and ankles that you can go about with your day-to-day activities such as walking, jogging, shopping, and exercising. Despite the significant role they play, there’s a chance that you’re not fully aware of their importance in maintaining your overall wellbeing. However, things quickly change once you start experiencing problems with your feet and ankles. This usually happens due to the natural aging of the tissues in your ankle or foot or because of injuries.
What are the most common signs that indicate foot and ankle problems? This is a question many people ask themselves, especially due to the increased prevalence of these problems. Without further ado, here’s a look at the conditions that cause ankle and foot problems and the signs you need to know:
What Is Foot Pain?
Foot pain refers to any sort of discomfort or pain you might feel in different areas of your feet, such as the arches, toes, soles, and heels. It can be an ongoing issue, or it can be temporary, lasting for only a few hours or days. Foot pain can also vary in terms of severity, ranging from very mild to debilitatingly painful. It usually happens due to lack of rest, medical conditions, or injuries that affect the tendons, ligaments, and tendons.
Each foot is a complex body part that comprises 26 bones connected by several muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. The feet bear your body’s entire weight as you go about with your daily routine, which means feet experiences a lot of stress that can lead to injury, inflammation, or pain. When this happens, your mobility and movement suffer in the process.
What Is Ankle Pain?
Ankle pain is the discomfort or pain you feel in the parts around your ankle. The severity and how this pain manifests itself differs, and in some cases, it can be caused by swelling or stiffness in the parts near the ankle (instead of the joint itself).
The muscles around your ankles are very flexible, allowing you to rotate, flex, point and move your feet from one side to another. This movement is made possible thanks to a complex structure of muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues, which enable both the ankle and feet to move. However, this complexity is what’s responsible for an ankle injury that eventually causes you to experience some pain, especially under these conditions:
- You’re aged over 65 years old.
- Being obese or carrying additional weight
- Partaking in activities or sports that involve fast changes in direction, side-to-side movements, or jumping.
What Common Signs Are Associated With Foot And Ankle Problems?
Pain and discomfort around your foot and ankles are usually a sign that you’re suffering from a particular medical condition. According to specialists at Teton Foot & Ankle Center, this pain can be sporadic or consistent, and is usually associated with certain symptoms, including;
- Ankle swelling
- Poor flexibility when performing daily routine activities
- Insomnia and a hard time sleeping
- Disability or limping in some instances
- Tingling or numbness
What Are The Common Causes of Foot Pain?
Ankle and foot pain is mostly caused by certain factors and medical conditions, including the following:
This is a common cause of foot pain and it happens due to engaging in high-impact sports or exercises without giving your feet enough rest. It can also be caused by particular lifestyle choices that put extra pressure on your feet, such as wearing high-heeled shoes, or shoes that don’t fit you well.
A bunion is a bone defect that occurs when your big toes begin to rotate inwards to face other toes. Because of this, the area close to your big toe will subsequently develop a big bump. As a result, you’ll tend to place most of your body’s weight on the side of your feet while standing or walking, which causes you to experience pain. This pain becomes a lot more intense when you put on high heels or tight shoes. Bunions also cause irritation and inflammation to the second and big toes.
Different things can cause bunions, including wearing the wrong choice of footwear that squeezes your toes, and genetic factors. If left untreated, bunions eventually cause redness and swelling of the bump. This pain can be reduced by placing gel bunion pads or wearing comfier shoes. However, surgery might need to be done to realign your toes and correct this joint abnormality.
3. Flat Feet
This condition happens if your feet have an extremely low or absent arch, meaning the entire sole of your foot comes into contact with the floor when you’re standing. Without the concave space in between your foot’s ball and heel, you’re more predisposed to suffering from foot or ankle pain. This happens because your body weight places excessive pressure on both your feet and ankles.
You can be born with flat feet or develop them later in life after the posterior tibial tendon experiences direct trauma. This often happens due to participating in high-impact sports, but it can be treated with shoe adjustments, physical therapy, using a walking brace or cane, shoe inserts, and in extreme cases, surgery.
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis
It’s an autoimmune condition that occurs when a person’s immune system attacks different joints across the body, including the ankle and foot. This condition causes inflammation and pain of the foot and ankle because it eats away the synovium, which is the protective membrane that covers the joint lining. Usually, this condition manifests as pain in the toes, which then spreads to your ankles after some time.
5. Plantar Fasciitis
This condition happens due to overusing your foot’s sole surface, thereby causing the fascia, which is the hard and fibrous band of tissues connecting the base of the toes and heel bone, to become inflamed. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most prevalent causes of foot pain, and this pain usually manifests itself across your foot’s bottom section, usually close to your heel’s inner part. This pain is more evident after participating in a strenuous activity such as running and during morning hours, right after waking up.
Certain exercises help prevent plantar fasciitis, including balance exercises, stretching and strengthening. In addition, workouts also effectively prevent the reoccurrence of this condition. Physical therapy also comes in handy as it helps restore the biomechanics of your ankle, feet, and whole lower extremity.
Other treatment options you can consider include applying ice packs, resting, and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammation medication. Your physician can also recommend a cortisone injection or a night splint if the pain continues to worsen. If any of these treatments don’t work, surgery could be used as a last resort.
This is a kind of arthritis that occurs due to the accumulation of uric acid across your entire body. Ideally, uric acid should be expelled from your body through urine. If this doesn’t happen, it starts crystallizing on the joints, subsequently causing you to experience severe pain. The propensity for developing gout could be genetic or brought about by lifestyle factors, mainly poor diet.
If you’re suffering from gout, one of the first places that will be affected with be your big toe which, start to swell and become tender. Affected parts can also become extremely red and accompanied by sharp pain. The painful sensation can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. The severity of this condition can be reduced by using medicine that hinder gout flare-ups, as well as making lifestyle and dietary changes.
There are two fluid-filled sacs on the ankle that cushion the area between the bones and tendons. These sacs might become inflamed because of different reasons, including recently changing your shoes, wearing high-heeled shoes, arthritis, overuse, and exercising. This consequently might cause your ankles to feel hot, stiff, swollen, and tender.
This foot deformity happens when your toe’s middle joint has an abnormal bend usually caused by an imbalance to your foot’s muscles. Your toes eventually curve due to the weakening of the muscles meant to distribute pressure on the joints and tendons across all your toes. As a result, this forces some of your toes to move upwards by their joint at the joint. With your toe in this hammer-like shape, the ball of your foot and the affected toe will eventually become sore.
You can treat hammertoe using different effective techniques, including stretching exercises, wearing hammertoe pads, and putting on loose-fitting shoes. If this condition gets worse, you can resort to getting surgery. While these treatment options are effective, it’s best to avoid this condition from starting out in the first place. You can do this by keeping away from narrow and high-heeled shoes.
9. Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are caused by damage to the ligaments that connect the ankle bones. This happens when the stretching of the ankle ligaments surpasses the ordinary range of motion. It can also be due to different strenuous activities such as walking or running, wearing high-heeled shoes, or sudden rolling, turning, and twisting movements.
The severity of ankle pain ranges from mild to severe, depending on how much damage the stretched ligament has suffered. The mild and moderate pains can be resolved in different ways, including;
- Applying ice packs to decrease inflammation
- Resting your ankle
- Elevating your ankle
- Gradual exercises and walking
- Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen to minimize inflammation and pain
- Physical therapy
- Covering your ankle with tape or elastic bandage
- Surgery for severe pain
Some of the common symptoms of an ankle sprain include swollen ankle, one ankle experiencing pain, and ankle twisting.
What Can You Do To Relieve Foot And Ankle Pain?
There are certain self-care tips you can implement to reduce ankle and foot pain and discomfort, and this includes;
- Rest your ankle or feet to avoid placing excessive weight that adds more stress, thereby making you experience more pain. This means you shouldn’t partake in any form of exercise and instead move gently when moving from one point to another.
- Place frozen vegetables or ice wrapped in damp clothing on the sore and painful area after every 2 to 3 hours for 20 minutes.
- Compression which basically means covering the area experiencing some pain with a bandage. While it needs to be tightened, you shouldn’t overdo it because this will limit blood flow.
- Raise your feet above your heart level to minimize the swelling. You also should ensure your feet are in a raised position even while sleeping.
- Wear supportive wear, which provides your feet and ankles with enough support. This is especially essential when playing high-intensity sports such as football, volleyball, and basketball. You also should stop wearing loose shoes, including sandals, and flip-flops.
- Always drink enough fluids because dehydration leads to painful swelling caused by amplified pressure being placed on the sensitive tissues in your bones. You can prevent this by drinking at least six glasses of water during the day.
- If your ankle and feet are already painful due to soreness, you should use nonsteroidal pain-relieving medication such as analgesics, OTC pain killers, and corticosteroids. You can also apply topical pain-relief medication that contains eucalyptus, camphor, and menthol periodically throughout the day. This way, you’ll feel the much-needed pain relief to go about with your daily activities.
- Enroll in physical therapy to help boost your feet and ankle’s flexibility and strength.
If these don’t work in relieving the ankle and foot pain, you should get immediate medical attention.
Foot and ankle pain, whether chronic or acute, can cause significant discomfort. But before going to the doctor to get a comprehensive diagnosis of the problem, there are certain clear signs that indicate that you’re indeed suffering from ankle and foot problems. This in-depth guide has dived into detail to outline the common signs you need to know. Consequently, you’ll be able to determine what’s the most appropriate remedy to get to address your issue.