WHAT CAUSES FOOT PAIN ?
There are many causes of foot pain, some obvious and some not so obvious so probably the best thing to do is to make a list of some of the more common causes of foot pain:
OSTEOARTHIRITIS : A breakdown of joint cartilage and wear of the underlying bone that therefore inhibits and limits joint movement and function e.g. bunions
BURSITIS : Bursae are sacs of synovial fluid occurring naturally in the body where tendons cross bone, or are created by the body as a means of protection to repetitive pressure or friction on a bony prominence. They can become inflamed and therefore very painful and can sometimes ulcerate. Bunions and other prominent joints such as on hammer toes often have associated bursae.
CORNS and CALLUS : These occur over pressure areas on toes and on the soles of the feet. Callus is an area of hard dead skin, it occurs as a result of overloading or pressure on that area, it is painful because it is hard and inflexible and presses on the structures beneath. A corn is just a much more concentrated and hard callus at the centre of the pressure point, it can often involve nerve and blood supply.
INGROWN and THICKENED NAILS: Ingrown nails press into or pierce the flesh at the side of the nails and can become infected, thickened nails bruise the nail bed under the nail and can therefore cause bleeding and/or corns beneath the nail itself.
CRACKED HEELS/FISSURES: Due to an excess build up of dead skin due to pressure and friction or due to e.g. Psoriasis. They can open up so much they bleed or become infected or both. Fissures can also occur on the fore-foot usually around the ball of the foot on the under-side.
RHEUMATOID ARTHIRITIS: An auto immune condition where the body’s immune system attacks itself causing inflammation in the soft tissues of joints and ultimately causes joint deteriation/destruction.
GOUT: Too much uric acid in the blood causes intense swelling, heat, redness in joints, usually (but not always) the big toe joint. It is extremely painful. Repeat attacks can result in joint distortion and acid crystals being laid down in the joints.
METATARSALGIA : A blanket term for pain in the fore-foot. This could be caused by anything from metatarsal head fracture, Morton’s neuroma, interdigital bursitis to name several possible causes.
PLANTAR FASCIITIS: aka Policman’s heel, heel spur. Pain slightly to the inside centre of the bottom of the heel that sometimes radiates forward into the arch of the foot. Very much like a muscle strain but can’t heel due to never getting rested. Podiatrists have a variety of ways to get resolution but often orthotic therapy is needed to keep at bay long-term.
ILL-FITTING FOOTWEAR: Causes pressure or friction on various foot structures leading to e.g. Blisters, callus/corns, bursae, ingrown toenails.
CHILLBLAINS: Not so common these days due to more consistent heat via central heating, these are very painful areas where the tissue effectively dies because the circulation shuts down due to cold but doesn’t open up again readily so waste metabolites are left in the extremities of e.g. fingers and toes and so poison the tissues resulting in very painful bluey black areas of dead tissue. Reynaud’s phenomena is a major cause.
VERRUCAE: Can feel like corns, they are a viral infection that causes an area of skin to grow and die more quickly leading to callus build- up in that area.
STRESS FRACTURES: Can occur in any of the foot bones but usually in the metatarsals, usually due to over-use injuries.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but merely mentions some of the more common problems leading to foot pain.