Far too many Americans are quick to dismiss foot pain, as being something normal or “not a big deal.” When it comes to your feet, we are talking about valuable structures essential for providing stability and enabling you to move around. If they are hurting, you need to do something about it!
The good news is that we make it easy for you to know what to do here at Ripepi Foot & Ankle Clinics. Simply come in and see us, and we will accurately diagnose the condition affecting you before creating an effective treatment plan to resolve the issue. Even better, many causes of foot pain are addressed with conservative (nonsurgical) care.
Heel Anatomy and Common Causes of Pain
Your hindfoot is made up of the calcaneus (heel bone) and talus (ankle bone), which sits on top of it. The calcaneus is the biggest bone in your foot, and it serves as an anchor for a couple of important connective tissues – the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. These tissues play a certain role in some of the most likely sources of pain in the back of your foot (plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis).
- Plantar Fasciitis – When listing causes of heel pain, we start with plantar fasciitis for the simple reason it is, by far, the most common condition for adults. The problem arises in a connective tissue known at the plantar fascia, which runs along the underside of your foot, helps support the arch, and connects the heel to the forefoot area. This fascia is generally quite strong, but excessive strain can lead to tiny tears and inflammation. The body works to repair those tears during times of rest and the initial steps afterwards can reopen them, which explains why the pain is most severe in the morning (after the body has spent all night mending the tears).
- Achilles Tendinitis – After plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis is the second-most common source of heel pain for adults. Much like with the previous condition, this one is caused by an inflamed connective tissue. In this case, it is the Achilles tendon. Your Achilles is actually the largest and strongest out of the thousands of tendons in your body, but it is not infallible.
- Sever’s Disease – When it is a child or adolescent who is experiencing heel pain, the likely culprit is a condition known as Sever’s disease (or calcaneal apophysis). Now, the name is a bit misleading, since this is not actually a disease. Instead, it is a literal growing pain that occurs when a growth plate found in the back of the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. This creates a situation wherein the Achilles tendon, which isn’t as long as it will ultimately become, tugs on the insertion point in the back of the heel and causes pain for your son or daughter. The pain is typically strongest following physical activity.
- Heel Spurs – In addition to bursae, not many people are familiar with bone spurs, but these are calcium deposits the body builds up on bone tissue over time. They are often found in areas facing excessive pressure or force on a frequent basis, such as the bottom of the heel. Heel spurs are frequently found when plantar fasciitis has been an issue for a patient.
- Retrocalcaneal (back of the heel) Bursitis – A fairly unknown anatomical feature in our bodies is the bursa. Bursae (pluralized) are fluid-filled sacs that provide extra cushioning for the muscles, bones, and tendons near joints.
Midfoot Pain and Injury
Your midfoot contains an essential section known as the Lisfranc joint complex, which is formed by ligaments and bones connecting your midfoot to the forefoot. As with any other part of your body, the midfoot is susceptible to injury during sports and physical activities. In this case, the injuries can include sprains, fractures, and dislocations.
It is important that you come see Dr. Ripepi for a proper diagnosis, and effective treatment plan, but you should know that all three of these midfoot injuries share the same symptoms:
- Swelling and pain in the top of your foot.
- Bruising in the top and bottom of the affected foot, with bruising on the underside being particularly indicative of a Lisfranc injury.
- Pain that worsens either while walking or standing. In some cases, the pain is severe to the point crutches are needed.
In the event you develop any of these midfoot injury symptoms, you should begin with using RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) to control the swelling and pain until you are able to come see us for professional diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Arch Pain
Different factors might be at work when pain is experienced in a foot arch, including structural imbalance, injury, or even plantar fasciitis. Injuries that result in arch pain are often related to the arch’s ligaments, tendons, and bones that have become weakened from overuse. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD), in particular, is an injury that can result in a painful condition.
When structural imbalance is the primary cause of a pained arch, it is usually attributed to foot arches that are either too high (cavus foot) or too low (flatfoot).
Arthritic Conditions Causing Foot Pain
Combined, there are over thirty joints in every foot and ankle. Accordingly, a potential source of pain, discomfort, and immobility in the lower limbs is arthritis. When we discuss arthritic conditions affecting foot and ankle health, we are usually looking at:
- Osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis, and one that develops over time and from basic wear and tear. Given how common osteoarthritis is, this condition is the one people generally think of when they hear the word “arthritis.” The key symptom is joints that are stiff and pained.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune disorder causing the pain and stiffness in joints. With RA, the body’s immune system begins targeting and attacking the protective joint lining. At this time, no one is completely sure why this happens, but there is likely a genetic component.
- Gout. This type of arthritis has yet a different origin – the process the body uses to break down food products. More specifically, gout is caused when too much uric acid (a natural byproduct of the food breakdown process) builds up in the blood stream and is not properly flushed out of the body. When this happens, the uric acid settles into joints and crystallizes. The joint at the base of the big toe, the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint is most commonly affected.
- Posttraumatic arthritis. An accident or physical force causing a joint bone to break can lead to an early onset of osteoarthritis. Posttraumatic arthritis can take years to develop, but it will often emerge before an individual would expect to experience typical osteoarthritis symptoms.
Professional Foot Pain Treatment at Ripepi Foot & Ankle Clinics
No matter what is responsible for your foot pain, Dr. Joseph Ripepi will establish the root cause and then create a treatment plan that works for you and your lifestyle goals. Find out more about Ripepi Foot & Ankle Clinics and the services we provide—or request your appointment with our Cleveland podiatry practice—by either calling (440) 843-3692 or taking a moment to fill out our online form. Either way, one of our team members will be glad to help you.