Are Your Feet Telling You Something?

After a long day, many of us look forward to “getting off our feet.” This is normal of course, but if foot pain is chronic and persistent, there may be more to it than simply fatigue.

“It’s never a good idea to ignore chronic foot pain,” says Dr. John Miller, who specializes in foot and ankle-related ailments and surgery at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic. “Our feet are so important to the rest of our lives that we owe it to ourselves to initiate treatment as early as possible.”

Here are some important facts about a few of the most common foot ailments, along with some clues to identifying them. The truth is that your feet might be telling you something, and it may be more serious than you think.

This deformity of the joint connecting the big toe to the foot is common, but nobody is entirely sure why it occurs (while shoes seem to exacerbate the problem, it is unlikely that they cause it). Often this results in the big toe bending toward the other toes, with the joint becoming red and painful. The onset tends to be gradual, but those who suffer from bunions know that the condition eventually makes it challenging to find footwear that fits properly. As a result, the bunion can become irritated – and stay that way for long periods of time. Bunions become more common with age, and while conservative techniques can relive pain for some bunion sufferers, a surgical procedure known as a bunionectomy is fairly common for those who are suffering from significant discomfort.

Plantar Fasciitis
Everybody, from school teachers to professional athletes, gets sidelined by this disorder of the connective tissue, which supports the arch of the foot. The resulting heel pain can be very troublesome. It manifests itself most when a person first steps on his/her foot (getting out of bed, for example) and tends to improve with movement. Plantar fasciitis is more common in people over the age of 40 and can often be addressed with conservative treatments like rest or stretching. However, in severe cases, surgery may be required.

Achilles Tendinitis
Degeneration, trauma or inflammation can disrupt the function of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the human body. It is responsible for causing a foot to extend. With this type of tendinitis, pain and tenderness near the heel are the most common symptoms, with swelling also occurring in some cases. Motion may be limited, and the affected tendon tends to be stiff in the morning before activity. While Achilles tendinitis may be treated with rest and therapy, surgery is also a proper treatment option for some patients.

While ill-fitting shoes may be incorrectly identified as the scapegoats for many foot issues, they really are to blame for the deformity known as hammertoes. In this condition, the toe becomes permanently bent, sometimes as a result of a medical condition like arthritis or diabetes, but mainly because of overly tight shoes – especially high heels. Fortunately, treatment for hammertoes is fairly straightforward, focusing mainly on stretching exercises and, of course, a change to more comfortable shoes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
A chronic inflammatory disorder, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can affect many joints, including the small joints of the foot. In fact, nearly everyone who suffers from RA develops symptoms in the foot and ankle over the course of the disease (in fact, in a good number of patients, RA is initially detected via problems with the feet). RA causes inflammation, swelling and deformities. The results are pain and stiffness, which most often appear in both feet. While genetics seem to be the key, the exact cause of RA is still unknown. If you have persistent swelling and pain in your joints, it’s best to see a doctor. If you are diagnosed with RA, take heart – rheumatologists like Dr. Hope Agenziano at Valley Bone & Joint Clinic are experienced with the latest techniques used to treat the disease.

If you are experiencing chronic pain or other symptoms in your feet or ankles, speak to your doctor. They can refer you to a specialist like Dr. Miller, Dr. Yashraj A. Chauhan or even Dr. Argenziano at Valley Bone & Join Clinic. Listen to your feet. You will be glad you did.