Chronic foot and ankle pain is possibly one of the most debilitating issues you could experience. Not being able to walk or stand without discomfort can drastically slow down your quality of life. How are you going to run the 400-meter dash on the weekends — or, you know, do normal stuff like walk the dog or go to the grocery store?
Let’s face it — foot and ankle pain is the Achilles heel of your active lifestyle. But it doesn’t have to be a forever thing. There are several conservative treatment options that can get you back on your feet sooner than you think.
In this page, we’ll guide you through some of the common symptoms and causes of foot and ankle pain, and then we’ll talk through the treatment options available to you. All of the treatments we will talk through are conservative, noninvasive options that not only help treat your current condition, but also drastically reduce the risk of needing surgery in the future.
Foot and Ankle Pain Symptoms
OK, so we know that pain is obviously a symptom of foot and ankle pain (that one is easy), but what about the other symptoms you might be experiencing? Listen, the human body sometimes gets little tweaks that can cause sudden, mild, short-lived pain. These instances can be triggered by stepping on your ankle wrong, putting too much pressure on the ball of your foot or landing on a hard surface with just a little too much impact.
These short-lived, mild symptoms that go away within a few days are usually not indicative of an underlying condition in your foot or ankle. However, if your pain is a bit more than very mild and sometimes couples with one of these other symptoms, you may have a problem that needs to be seen by a physical therapist:
- Pain or stiffness around the ankle
- Pain through the heel or arch of the foot
- Difficulty putting pressure on the foot
- Pins-and-needles feeling that extends into the toes
- Pain from the heel up the calf
- Stabbing pain during certain movements
If you have these symptoms in your ankle or foot, and they last for more than a few days, you should schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. Your physical therapist can make an accurate diagnosis of the root cause of your symptoms, and then you can work together to find the best treatment plan available for your foot and ankle pain.
Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain
Ankle and foot pain can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common include:
- Bursitis — The bones in your foot are cushioned by fluid-filled sacs called bursae. In some cases, these sacs can become irritated and inflamed, which is a condition known as bursitis.
- Arthritis — Like any other joint, the ankle is susceptible to the protective cartilage breaking down after years of wear and tear, which can result in inflammation and arthritis of the ankle.
- Tendinitis — This is common in the Achilles tendon where there is a tear or rupture due to injury or improper stretching before exercise.
- Plantar fasciitis — Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions, and describes the inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the toes.
To properly diagnose the cause of your foot and ankle pain, you may be asked to undergo an MRI, which will allow your physical therapist to see the musculoskeletal makeup of your foot and ankle, and identify the exact cause of your pain and symptoms. Once this happens, you two can discuss treatment options that fit into your current lifestyle and your overall recovery goals.
Treatment Options for Foot and Ankle Pain
In some cases, at-home therapies like hot/cold compression and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) may help relieve mild foot and ankle pain. However, if this pain continues for several days without getting better, or if it gets worse during that time, you should schedule an appointment to see a physical therapist. Fortunately, physical therapy is a direct access treatment option, which means that you do not have to have a referral from a doctor’s office before scheduling with a local PT clinic.
Some of the physical therapy treatments that are commonly used for foot and ankle pain include:
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy can help increase mobility and movement into the ankle joint, which can relieve inflammation caused by arthritis.
- Joint mobilization — This type of mobilization targets the ankle joint specifically, not just the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint, to improve mobility.
- Therapeutic exercises — Certain exercises and stretches are targeted for conditions like plantar fasciitis and tendinitis.
- Kinesiology taping — This type of taping can add stability to the ankle joint to help reduce pressure on the joint itself and support the surrounding muscles during movement.
If you’re ready to seek treatment for your chronic foot and ankle pain, contact our team at Lattimore Physical Therapy today. We can help you get back on your feet and enjoy the lifestyle you love. Contact us today or visit our locations page to find a clinic near you.
What Training Do Physical Therapists Have?
You may be surprised to learn that physical therapy has progressed to a doctorate level profession, and requires 6 to 7 years of schooling before practicing. Physical therapists are highly trained and educated professionals. If you’re considering PT for your treatment, know that you’re in the right hands.