by Andrew Moore, MD
Whether you’re a teenage athlete suffering from an acute sports injury or a 70-year-old grandparent suffering from joint pain or arthritis, foot pain does not need to be an acceptable part of your life.
Anatomically speaking, our feet are among the most intricate structures in our bodies. Taken together, our two feet are made up of 56 bones, or roughly 25 percent of all bones in the human body. Each foot has 28 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and many tendons, all working together to move us from point A to point B, while supporting a tremendous amount of weight with every step we take. With such a complex structure and the constant physical demand being placed on feet, it’s no wonder that 75 percent of Americans will experience health problems with their feet in their lifetime.
But there is good news: Early intervention can reduce or eliminate foot pain altogether, help you avoid surgery, and improve your overall quality of life.
There are a number of preventive measures you can try yourself at home if you are experiencing foot pain. This begins with shopping for shoes that fit you properly. Believe it or not, poorly fitted shoes are one of the most common reasons for foot pain. Look for a quality shoe that provides cushioning and maximum support for the arch and heel, as well as one with removable insoles, which can accommodate an over-the-counter orthotic without crowding your feet.
Another measure involves taking a few minutes to stretch your feet and ankles each morning or before you exercise. If you workout often, try reducing the number of repetitive, high-impact exercises you do in the gym.
Third, and also quite common, excess body weight can cause problems in your feet. In order to stay balanced, the muscles of the foot contract, which amplifies the body weight it carries. For every pound of excess weight you lose, five to six pounds are taken off your feet. If you lose ten pounds, it’s like taking 50 – 60 pounds off your feet.
Fourth, together with any of the first three at-home remedies listed above, for short-term management of aches and pains, consider an over-the-counter pain blocker, such as Tylenol, in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory medication, such as Ibuprofen.
If any of these at-home actions don’t help, consider seeking professional treatment from an orthopedic specialist, specifically someone experienced in conditions of the foot and ankle.
Seeing an orthopedic surgeon doesn’t mean you will only be given surgical options. An orthopedic surgeon’s goal is to decrease your pain in the least invasive way possible. That is why for every 10 patients I treat, only one on average has surgery.
If your foot is telling you something is wrong, don’t wait. Do something about it.
Andrew Moore, MD, is a Board-certified orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon. He is a credentialed member of the St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea medical staff and treats patients in his Chelsea Orthopedic Specialists office, located at 14650 E Old US Hwy 12 in Chelsea, Michigan.