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Is pesky foot pain dragging you down? You’re not alone. Gundersen’s podiatry experts see a wide range of foot and ankle pain ailments walk through the door. Some conditions can be easily managed on their own, while others would improve more quickly with a trip to a podiatrist.

What causes foot pain?

Did you know that your foot is made up of 28 bones and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments? With all these complex pieces working together to support your body, pain and inflammation can pop up when your foot or ankle is stressed or injured. You can experience pain anywhere in your foot or ankle that can change the way you move around and function.

Here are some of the most common causes of foot or ankle pain and how you may want to handle them.

Plantar Fasciitis  

Inflammation in the sole of your foot can cause mild to debilitating foot arch pain or pain in the heel of your foot. This is likely a sign of plantar fasciitis. Proper treatment and prevention – including stretching, icing, wearing supportive shoes and avoiding bare feet – can lessen the effects of plantar fasciitis.

Gout

Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that results when there is a buildup of uric acid in the blood – most commonly the joint of your big toe or the ankle. You’ll often feel sharp pain that comes on suddenly along with signs of inflammation like redness, swelling and warmth over your joint. Treatment for gout can range from medications to treat the pain and inflammation to dietary restrictions and rest.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis of the foot and ankle joints is common, but it can have a significant effect on how you walk and do other activities. It occurs when the cartilage in your joints wears out or is lost – often from the wear and tear that happens over time – leading to pain, stiffness and loss of movement in the affected joint. Living at a healthy weight can take the stress off your joints and ease the effects of osteoarthritis.

“End-stage arthritis of the foot or ankle is not something that patients need to just live with,” says Gundersen Health System podiatrist Bradley Abicht, DPM, FACFAS. “We can offer many solutions ranging from cartilage restoration or join implants to fusions that eliminate arthritis and preserve patient mobility.”  

Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail occurs when a toenail grows into your skin causing pain, redness and swelling at the nail borders – commonly caused by nail deformity, poor trimming habits or wearing shoes that are too small. Initial treatment for an ingrown toenail can be done at home as long as there is no sign of infection. Soaking your foot in room-temperature water with Epsom salts can help to reduce the inflammation in your toe and lessen symptoms. If you suspect an infection – or if your symptoms aren’t improving – it’s important to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. Sometimes a minor office procedure is necessary to remove the ingrown portion of the nail.

Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of fluid-filled sacs – known as a bursa – that cushion the bones and joints in your foot. Excessive exercise or wearing high heels or tight shoes that place stress on your joints can cause bursitis. You’ll notice dull, throbbing or achy type foot pain with some swelling. Rest, icing and proper footwear will often relieve the effects of foot bursitis.

Bunions

A bunion is a common condition that many people suffer through unnecessarily. You may notice a bump on the side of your big toe caused when the big toe points toward the second toe rather than straight ahead. The resulting pain – and bump – get worse over time and may start to affect your quality of life. Dr. Abicht offers minimum incision surgical (MIS) correction of bunions. “Advantages of MIS bunion surgery compared to traditional open bunion surgery include: less pain; less swelling; immediate weightbearing; tiny, barely visible scars; and preserved great toe joint range of motion,” notes Dr. Abicht. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Abicht to figure out if bunion surgery is the best option for you.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage brought on by diabetes that can lead to numbness, burning or tingling in the feet, changes in the shape of your foot and dry feet. It is a condition that often develops slowly and gets worse over time. Treatment of diabetic neuropathy involves keeping blood sugar levels under control as well as medications to lessen any symptoms you may be experiencing.  

Flat Feet

Flat feet, medically known as progressive collapsing foot deformity (flatfoot), is a condition where the arches in your feet don’t develop or collapse over time. Flatfoot can cause pain and progressive deformity. Treatment ranges from simple supportive shoe gear and orthotics (shoe inserts) to surgical reconstruction. If you’re experiencing pain – or would like recommendations for living with flat feet – a trip to your podiatrist is in order.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon – which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It is often caused by a sudden increase in repetitive exercise or activity involving the Achilles tendon and seen in athletes or people whose work consistently stresses their ankles and feet. The pain and tenderness that comes with Achilles tendonitis can be eased with rest, ice and anti-inflammatory drugs, while regular stretching exercises are employed to improve flexibility.

Tips on how to relieve foot pain

It’s important to know how to gauge when you can manage the pain on your own or when you should see a podiatrist. Here are some tips for you to try at home.

Rest and ice

Rest is the easiest thing you can try to relieve your foot pain. Have a seat and relax! Take it a step further by icing your foot. Try to get in 3 to 4 good icings for 15 minutes each day.

Proper footwear

Your walking style can also cause you to develop pain in your foot. Certain shoes offer more heel and arch support than others. Ask a salesperson for suggestions on walking, cross training or running shoes that will be a little more helpful for your feet.

Stretching and strengthening exercises

Focus on stretches that target your specific pain area and strengthen the surrounding muscles in your legs. It’s especially important to stretch before and after exercising to help reduce the risk of injury and maintain the health of your feet and muscles.

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen offer two different avenues of relief. They help to relieve the pain in your foot and also reduce inflammation in your foot. Medications only provide you temporary relief of your pain, so it’s important to talk to a podiatrist if your pain doesn’t get better over time.

Orthotics

Custom-made foot and ankle orthotics promote proper movement of your foot. They can also help to ease foot pain by offering support to the affected area. Ask a podiatrist if a custom orthotic or shoe insert would help to relieve the foot pain that you’re experiencing.

When to see a podiatrist

If at-home treatments don’t offer full relief of your foot pain, it’s important to listen to your body and see a podiatrist. “Foot and ankle problems that are identified early are more likely to respond to non-surgical treatments,” says Dr. Abicht. “Oftentimes X-rays are obtained to supplement a thorough lower extremity exam, and we will diagnose your condition and offer treatment options that best fit your specific needs.”  

Sometimes physical therapy is recommended to help improve your condition. Treatments can range from conservative options that help to manage symptoms to surgical options for more serious ailments. 

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1900 South Ave.
La Crosse, WI 54601

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