What Is Causing My Foot Pain? | Cardin & Miller PT

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What Is Causing My Foot Pain?

woman holding her foot in pain

Your foot pain could be a whole host of different things… from a stress fracture, ligament tear or strain to a fallen arch, arthritis, or plantar fasciitis. 

Let’s start with, where does it hurt? The top of the foot, heel, underside - right in the arch?

Believe it or not. The simple foot that we rely on to carry us around all day is an intricate and complex structure – with lots of nerves, ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles that are vulnerable to damage.

Any one of these tissues or tendons could be the source of your pain.

You can usually determine the potential cause of your foot pain and whether or not it requires treatment based on the location of the pain. But not always.

For instance, medical conditions can afflict various parts of the foot.

Likewise, injuries can lead to redating pain across the foot. That’s why it’s important to consult a professional to diagnose the issue.

At Cardin & Miller, foot pain is one of the most common conditions we treat.

So regardless of the location of your pain – and whether or not it fits the textbook description of a specific condition, we can usually pinpoint the cause of your pain in under 20 minutes and begin treatment right away.

Foot and ankle pain can occur due to various factors, including staying on your feet for long periods, shoes that don't fit properly, injuries, sprains, strains, or degenerative medical conditions like osteoarthritis or gout.

More Blogs From Cardin & Miller:

How To Fix My Flat Feet

Are Good Foot Orthotics Worth It? And How Can They Help Me?

What Is The Best Foot Care Routine When I’m Standing All Day?

What Causes Painful Feet?

woman holding her foot in pain after running

As we have mentioned before, many possible causes of foot and ankle pain will be specific to you.

But we can at least chat about some of the most common ones we see:

Joint Pain/Arthritis

If you have recurring pain in the section of your foot where the toes connect to the feet, toe knuckles, or ankle, it could be symptomatic of arthritis.

Arthritis is a degenerative medical condition that affects the joints.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage between the joints in the feet and ankles degenerates. The most common symptom of osteoarthritis is pain in the big toe.

Although there is no definitive cure for osteoarthritis, physical therapy and the therapeutic exercises we prescribe can be extremely helpful by reducing pain and slowing the progression of the disease.

Hammer Toe

Another common reason why some experience foot pain is due to a “hammer toe” deformity.

This condition usually affects a single toe - most commonly the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th toe.

It is a deformity where the shape of one toe changes and bends. As a result, it can get discolored or swell up, making it impossible to straighten.

In some cases, the condition can appear in multiple toes.

The main cause of hammer toe is imbalanced muscles due to wearing high heels or misfitting shoes.

The solution to fix pain caused by hammer toe is physical therapy and exercises that strengthen the toe muscles and wear well-fitting footwear.

But in chronic, untreated cases, surgery may be the only option.

Foot Arch Pain

If you have pain in the underside of your foot, in the arch.

The cause could be overuse, shoes without adequate support, or tendon or muscle injuries.

Other causes of foot arch pain include tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. In some people, having a “fallen foot arch” may also lead to pain.

Flat feet or fallen arches occur because of weak foot tendons that cannot support the arch.

Treatment for this type of foot pain includes physical therapy using supports or specialist footwear for your arches.

woman holding her foot arch in pain

Freiberg’s Disease

One of the rarer conditions that causes foot pain that mostly occurs in teenagers is a reduction in blood supply near the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones close to the toes.

This condition is called Freiberg's disease. It affects one foot with stiffness in the front toes, swelling, and pain. But physical therapy can help.

Pain In The Big Toe

Several conditions can lead to toe pain, such as sprains, broken bones, strains, etc.

In cases where the pain is limited to the big toe with the top nail part in pain, it may be due to an ingrown toenail.

In this condition, the edge of the toenail grows inside the skin leading to swelling and infection, making walking painful.

If you suspect an ingrown toenail as the cause, you can confirm your suspicions by gently pressing on the top of the nail and looking for swelling.

However, do not deal with the issue alone, as there is a risk of infection.

Instead, let a qualified medical professional handle it. An easy way to avoid this condition is to trim the big toenail and keep it short.

Ball-Of-Foot Pain/Forefoot Pain

There are various reasons for ball-of-foot pain or pain near the toes.

From stressed muscles to injuries and sprains all could cause foot pain.

In most cases, this type of pain subsides gradually on its own, but rest and foot massage may help.

But rest and foot massage may help.

If the pain lasts more than eight weeks, consult a physical therapist to identify the root cause.

man exercising his ball of foot

Morton’s Neuroma

The cause of this condition is a benign tumor.

It leads to nerve pain with a burning sensation in the toes or ball of the foot.

At times, there may also be tingling or numbness in the toes. Treatment includes wearing comfortable footwear and seeking physical therapy.

Achilles Tendinitis 

Achilles Tendinitis develops if the tendon at the back of the leg gets inflamed.

This inflammation could be due to the growth of bone spurs, taut calf muscles, or strenuous activity.

In most people, the condition worsens during the morning and can intensify due to activity.

Treatment includes physical therapy, proper footwear, and possible modification of your activity level.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes take three to six months to heal Achilles tendinitis.

Heel Pain

Any injury to the ankle joint or surrounding parts may lead to pain that radiates to the heel.

Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis are the most common reasons.

holding heel due to pain

Plantar Fasciitis

When the band of tissue in the foot that stretches from the heel to the toes gets inflamed, it is called plantar fasciitis.

The pain is intense and is aggravated by exercising first thing in the morning.

Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include obesity, not wearing comfortable footwear, and being long-distance runners.

If you remain standing for extended periods at work, you may also be prone to the condition. Rest, combined with physical therapy, will improve the condition.

General Pain Or Swelling

If you have pain and swelling in your feet, it may be due to a blood circulation issue. Diabetic neuropathy may also lead to swelling.

Other causes can include extreme heat that also leads to swelling of the feet during pregnancy.

In most situations, unless there is severe pain or you are a heart, kidney, or cancer patient, swelling in the feet is not a serious cause for concern.

However, you should consult a doctor if you have any of the following:

  • There is intense pain in the calf with swelling in a foot.
  • Along with pain and swelling, you have breathing issues.
  • There is dramatic and sudden swelling in the feet.

You should seek advice from a physical therapist if:

  • Despite treatment at home, including adequate rest, there is no improvement in your symptoms after seven days.
  • You are unsure of what footwear or inserts you should be using.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Prevent Foot Pain 

woman receiving physical therapy for her foot pain

If you have foot pain, we urge you to have it checked out by a physical therapist, even if the pain is mild.

It might feel like a minor injury right now, but untreated, minor injuries are one of the most common causes of osteoarthritis in later life.

Our feet carry us around throughout our lives and take a lot of stress and strain, so we should protect them at all costs by wearing sensible footwear and seeing a physical therapist when things don't feel quite right.

In most cases, it is a minor injury that we can correct easily to prevent future problems.

But sometimes, what feels like a minor injury can be quite a substantial ligament or tendon tear or, worse still, a fracture in one of the foot or ankle ones.

You just don't know until somebody who knows feet and ankles – like one of our physical therapists – looks at your feet and pinpoints what's happening.

We also teach you how to prevent foot problems in the future.

For example, you can do therapeutic stretching and strengthening exercises we teach you at home to mobilize your feet and ankles, prevent arthritis and/or progression of the disease, and maintain good flexibility and movement long into old age. 

You can apply for a FREE one on one screen with one of our Physical Therapists HERE.

After your free screen, you will know what is causing your pain and how we can fix your pain. 

If you're looking for immediate pain relief. Why not download our FREE Guide "5 Quick Ways to End Foot Pain Without Painkillers or Having Surgery".

Our specialists and friendly team here at Cardin & Miller look forward to welcoming you into one of our clinics. 

Shannon Kostelac

Shannon Kostelac

Shannon Kostelac

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