Foot pain can vary from being mildly annoying, to extremely severe. When you think about it, they are one of our best supporters. Our feet are the furthest body part from our heart, and poor blood circulation may contribute to pain and poor healing. When our feet hurt, we aren’t as active, so our lymph system, which depends only on physical activity to filter and carry circulating lymph fluid along, doesn’t perform as well. This means removal of cellular and toxins is hindered.
The history and symptoms of our pain are the most important pieces of information we can share with our doctor. Keep in mind that foot pain may not always originate with a problem in the feet. See “What’s Causing My Feet to Hurt!"
The four Ws = What, Where, When, and Why
As stated, the history is an essential part of “getting to the bottom of things.” What a metaphor. These include answering the following questions:
- Was there and injury?
- Is there a past injury?
- When did the pain start?
- What is the location of the pain?
- What are the symptoms?
- Does the pain start in one place and radiate to another?
- What aggravates the pain?
- Are there things you do to lessen the pain, such as resting, massage, ice, or a warm water soak?
- Are there perpetuating factors, such as:
A foot deformity or unusual lump
Other health problems that might contribute to your pain
Prepare for these questions by taking mental notes. Write them down if necessary, so you can make the best use of your time with your healthcare provider.
Location of Pain Might Include:
- The tiny joints in the feet that allow for locomotion.
- The joints in the toes, including the big toe.
- The ball of foot.
- The arch.
- The base of the heel.
- The bottom of the foot.
- The tendons (a big one is the Achilles tendon, located at the back of your heel.)
- Joint pain in the ankle.
- Muscle pain in the feet, the foreleg, or even your buttocks.
- Overall swelling of the foot/feet, or ankle(s).
- Temperature changes, warm or cold.
- Skin changes, such as thickening, pitting, or color changes (blue, red, white, bruised, or anything unusual), or painful skin patches.
- Local pain and/or swelling at the base of a toes or the ball of the foot.
- Isolated joint redness and/or warmth.
- Isolated joint tenderness.
- Wasting of the tissue.
- Weakness or stiffness.
- Immobility of joints.
- Pain with movement.
- Burning or throbbing.
- Foot numbness.
- Increased or decreased sensitivity.
- Tenderness or cramping.
- Nail changes, such as color, texture (pitting, ridges or thickness), or breaking easily (dry and brittle).
- Difficulty or pain with walking.
When we address our symptoms with questions like what, where, and when, we provide valuable information to our healthcare provider so he/she can determine why we’re experiencing pain. Possible causes for our feet to cry “HELP!” were covered previously, and we have covered the “what” and “where.” Next is “when.”
- Do your feet hurt all the time or does it come and go?
- If it comes and goes, have you noticed any contributing factors?
- Is the pain intensity always the same?
- Does manipulated your feet, toes, or legs cause the pain to worsen?
- Is there a certain time of day when your feet hurt worse?
- Does weight bearing cause you to topple or have weird feelings when they hit the floor?
- Is the pain worse with walking movement?
- Have you changed shoes?
You are a Pain in My Foot: My Story
I developed corns that grew into bone spurs on my little toes on both feet. Conservative treatment with corn removal products and protecting the area with pads didn’t help after a while. I had stopped wearing heels to work (I was coordinating hospital-wide education at the time), and I was resting my feet as much as possible. I was doing all the things you have probably already tried. My feet were screaming, “It’s time to report your symptoms to a specialist, or I will quit taking you where you need to go!”
The Final Step: Conclusion
Foot pain can have a variety of causes and many different symptoms. So be prepared with your history and symptoms in hand, and expect your healthcare provider to do a physical exam, order tests, and possibly make a referral.
Celeste Cooper, R.N., is a freelance writer focusing on chronic pain and fibromyalgia. She is lead author of Integrative therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and the Broken Body, Wounded Spirit: Balancing the See-Saw of Chronic Pain book series. She enjoys her family, writing and advocating, photography, and nature. Connect with Celeste through her website CelesteCooper.com, Twitter @FibroCFSWarrior, or follow her Facebook page.