Foot & Ankle Specialist
Many pregnant women complain about foot pain while they are expecting. Foot pain can primarily be caused by weight gain and hormonal changes taking place in the body. By understanding how pregnancy impacts the health of a woman's feet, a pregnant woman can take action to keep her feet as healthy and comfortable as possible.
Because a woman's weight changes during pregnancy, more pressure is brought to bear on both the legs and the feet. This weight shift can cause two major foot problems: over-pronation, also known as flat feet, as well as edema, which is swelling of the feet. Over-pronation occurs when the arch of the foot flattens, causing the foot to roll inwards when the individual is walking, and can aggravate the plantar fascia tissues located along the bottom of the feet. If these tissues become inflamed, a pregnant woman can experience pain in the heel of the foot as well as severe foot pain while walking or standing. Swelling of the feet, or edema, often occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. It is caused by slow circulation and water retention, and may turn the feet a light purple color.
To keep feet in good health and prevent over-pronation, pregnant women should avoid walking barefoot and be sure they are wearing shoes that offer good arch support. A device known as an orthotic can be added to regular footwear in order to provide additional support for the feet during pregnancy. Any expectant mother whose feet hurt should first check to see if the shoes she is wearing are old, worn out and not offering the proper support necessary for distributing the weight of her body during pregnancy.
To treat edema of the feet, a good start is to wear quality footwear which offers support and good circulation. Keep feet elevated whenever possible by using a foot stool while seated. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent water retention in the feet. Any swelling that occurs in only one foot should be examined as soon as possible by a doctor.
Good foot health during pregnancy can help expectant mothers avoid foot pain that leads to other health problems. Massaging the feet and doing regular gentle exercise like walking aids foot health by contributing to good circulation. Supportive shoes are also a good investment that will support foot health during pregnancy.
Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect muscles with bone. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. It connects the calf muscles at the back of the leg with the heel, and facilitates movements such as jumping, running, and walking.
Because the Achilles tendon is engaged so frequently and bears a great deal of pressure and stress throughout the day, it can become injured. Achilles tendon injuries cause the tissue to become irritated, inflamed, and swollen. Pain can come on gradually or be immediate, and will vary from mild to severe depending upon the injury. Where the pain occurs will vary as well, from just above the heel up through the back of the leg. There may also be stiffness in the tendon.
Achilles tendon injuries can often be caused by repetitive stress. They may also occur while running, playing tennis, gymnastics, football, basketball, dancing, soccer, baseball or other sports that require speeding up, slowing down, or pivoting quickly. Wearing high heels, falling from an elevation, stepping in a hole, having flat feet, bone spurs, tight leg muscles or tendons, wearing improper athletic shoes, exercising on uneven surfaces, or starting a new type of exercise can also cause Achilles tendon injuries.
The two most common Achilles tendon injuries are tendonitis and ruptures. Tendonitis causes painful inflammation and can occur in different parts of the tendon. Non-insertional Achilles tendonitis occurs when the fibers in middle of the tendon begin to break down, thicken, and swell. This condition typically affects younger, more active adults. Insertional Achilles tendonitis occurs where the tendon inserts into the heel bone. It is common for bone spurs to form with this type of injury. This condition can affect people of any age and level of activity.
Achilles tendon ruptures are a tear in the tendon. These breaks may be partial or complete. There may be an audible popping noise at the moment of injury and the pain will be sudden and severe.
An Achilles tendon injury can be diagnosed by your podiatrist after they examine you, check your range of motion, and possibly perform a calf squeeze test or review an X-ray or MRI. Depending on the type and severity of your injury, your podiatrist may treat your condition with rest/ice/compression/elevation (RICE), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, heel lifts, and stretching and strengthening exercises. If you have torn your Achilles tendon, treatment may include physical therapy, ultrasound, shockwave therapy, or possibly even surgery.
The plantar fascia is a connective tissue in the heel that stretches across the bottom length of your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the connective tissue becomes inflamed, causing heel pain and discomfort during physical activity. Although the condition is completely treatable, traditional methods can take up to a year to start becoming effective.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by a number of everyday activities, so understanding the condition is important for managing and treating it. One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is excessive running, especially with improper fitting or non-supportive shoes. Too much exercise can lead to the plantar fascia being overworked and overstretched, which can cause tears in the tissue. Along with improper fitting shoes, pronation, the rolling of the feet inward, is a common cause of plantar fasciitis. If not treated properly, the plantar fascia becomes overstretched and starts to tear, causing inflammation.
Despite the common causes of plantar fasciitis, there are many different treatment options. For less severe cases, conservative home remedies include taking anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain, applying ice packs to the bottom of your foot and heel, slowly stretching and exercising your feet to re-strengthen the tissue, and using orthotic devices are all ways to help manage your plantar fasciitis.
For more severe cases, shockwave therapy has become a common solution for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy can effectively break up the tissue on the bottom of your foot which facilitates healing and regeneration. This fights the chronic pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Even if this doesn’t work, surgery is always a final option. Surgery on the tissue itself can be done to permanently correct the issue and stop the inflammation and pain in your heels.
No matter what the case may be, consulting your podiatrist is the first and best step to recovery. Even the slightest amount of heel pain could be the first stage of plantar fasciitis. Untreated symptoms can lead to the tearing and overstretching of tissue. Because the tearing of tissue can be compounded if it remains ignored, it can evolve into a severe case. The solution is early detection and early treatment. Talk to your podiatrist about the possibilities of plantar fasciitis if you’re experiencing heel pain.
Ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis) are a common foot ailment and it is very unpleasant to experience. The condition is caused by an increase in pressure from the ingrowth of the nail edge into the skin of the toe. Ingrown toenails commonly cause pain in those who experience them. In some cases, the skin surrounding the ingrown toenail may break which may lead bacteria to enter through and cause an infection. Common symptoms of this ailment include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth around the toe.
An imbalance between the size of the nail and the enlargement of the nail skin edge causes ingrown toenails. This condition is often caused by improperly trimming the toenails. If you are trying you cut your nails, you should always try to trim straight across instead of in a rounded shape. Ingrown toenails can also be an inherited condition and they may also be caused by improper shoe fitting.
Another common cause of the condition is wearing shoes that are either too small or too large. Other causes include poor foot hygiene, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, edema, and fungal infections. There are many risk factors that may make a person more likely to develop an ingrown toenail. Athletes who play “stop and start” sports such as tennis, soccer, and basketball are most likely to have ingrown toenails.
People who have diabetes, a compromised immune system, or poor circulation should immediately seek care from a podiatrist if they have an ingrown toenail. It is also recommended to seek professional assistance if at-home remedies are not successful within a week or if there is persistent pain.