Foot pain is no laughing matter. Studies show that 75 percent of Americans will experience serious pain in their feet at some time during their lives, and as many as four in ten suffer from chronic pain that limits mobility. With that as a background, we were drawn to this recent article from NextAvenue, in which freelance writer Rosie Wolf Williams writes about some of the possible causes – and potential cures – for painful feet. If you or someone you love has this problem, taking these steps (no pun intended) could literally be a leap in the right direction.
Mobility Issues Made Worse by Painful Feet
Williams begins by pointing out that loss of mobility is an all-too common problem for older adults, and it often begins with foot pain. This chronic soreness can affect balance and may spread to other areas of the body—such as the knees and spine—making it difficult to navigate typical activities of daily life, such as walking, standing, or climbing stairs.
The good news is that foot pain is often perfectly treatable, and doctors warn against ignoring it. Dr. Lance M. Silverman, of Silverman Ankle and Foot in Minnesota, recognizes that living with foot pain “is always an option and patient choice. But there are so many non-surgical management and surgical treatment options available to patients to help them live more productive and fulfilling lives.”
Several Common Causes of Foot Pain
There are many causes for foot pain—which Williams covers in more detail in her article—but the consensus among experts is that people experience a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity. Since some causes are extremely minor, and others are more serious, it is always worth getting your pain checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, before things get worse.
One of the more common minor causes, according to NextAvenue, involves improperly fitted shoes, which can aggravate some of the natural changes your feet go through as you age, triggering irritation, corns, calluses, and other pains and problems. Muscle cramping due to lack of electrolytes is also a very simple cause with an easy fix, which usually includes better hydration and a healthy diet. Foot pain can also be a side effect of certain medications.
But some of the more severe causes of foot pain could be harbingers of a more serious problem, such as narrowed arteries with inhibited blood flow to the extremities, also known as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). This can often be an early symptom of cardiovascular disease. Along with PAD, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even diabetes can cause soreness in the feet. Because of this, getting your foot pain checked out by a physician is always a very wise move for your entire body’s health.
What You Can Do About Foot Pain
With such a wide spectrum of causes, is there anything you can do to be proactive about your foot health? Doctors say yes! Reporter Williams provides a great list of tips for foot health in her article. We have summarized them here, but you can read her article for the full list.
First, keep your feet as clean and dry as possible. Wash them daily with a gentle soap, dry them thoroughly with a soft towel, and make sure you wear clean socks made from natural fibers which keep your feet from developing fungus and bacteria growth. Changing your socks once a day is ideal.
Check your feet often for problems. Patients with neuropathy—numbness and weakness in the feet or other extremities—should check their feet daily, just to be safe, but for most other people a monthly check is sufficient. Problems to look for can range from signs of ill-fitting shoes, like corns and calluses, to minor injuries like cuts and blisters. These checks should also include looking for what Williams calls “silent problems”, such as melanoma and other abnormalities on the skin.
Choose the Right Shoes
Wear the right footwear, starting with clean socks (mentioned above) but also including the right shoes. They should be comfortable, the correct size, and have plenty of room for your toes. Also, as you go about your day, be aware of any joint discomfort such as stiffness or swelling. Remember, your feet change as you age, so get fitted properly when you buy new shoes. The size you wore ten years ago may be the wrong one today.
Regular foot check-ups by a doctor aren’t required by every person unless they have neuropathy and cannot feel the soreness that could signal deeper problems. But Dr. Silverman advises asking your doctor to check your feet during your routine check-ups, and even more so if you have any pain. “People who experience foot pain that stops them from their activity goals or makes them change plans should seek care,” he says. “If anyone has pain that persists, they should be evaluated.”
Go Barefoot or Not?
Believe it or not, going barefoot at home can be a real boon for older adults, as long as your home is a safe, clean place to walk.
“People get stronger by being barefoot,” says Dr. Silverman. “If sensation is intact (no neuropathy due to diabetes or other conditions such as post-chemotherapy neuropathy), then any protection will weaken the foot muscles and doesn’t actually provide stability. When people wear shoes they can’t use their foot muscles to balance, they can’t sense slight shift in weight as quickly. Someone walking around the house without shoes will catch themselves losing their balance earlier as they get more feedback from the floor.”
Exceptions to this include people with medical conditions that affect the feet, such as diabetes. But those individuals can replicate the effect by wearing slippers indoors, which give the feet more freedom than shoes.
Foot pain is extremely common among older adults, but it doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying life. With the right health regimen and a bit of awareness, foot pain is often entirely treatable. By paying attention to the signals your body is sending you, you can live a longer, more active, entirely fulfilled life. Take the right steps today!
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PHOTO CREDIT: Flickr, Paul Altobelli (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)