Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Foot Pain and Problems

Foot Pain and Problems

Anatomy of the foot
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Anatomy of the foot

The foot is one of the most complex parts of the body, consisting of 26 bones connected by numerous joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The foot is susceptible to many stresses. Foot problems can cause pain, inflammation, or injury, resulting in limited movement and mobility.

What are the different types of foot problems?

Foot pain is often caused by improper foot function. Improperly fitted shoes can worsen and, in some cases, cause foot problems. Shoes that fit properly and give good support can prevent irritation to the foot joints and skin. There are many types of foot problems that affect the heels, toes, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and joints of the foot.

The symptoms of foot problems may resemble other medical conditions and problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What are heel spurs?

A heel spur is a bone growth on the heel bone. It is usually located on the underside of the heel bone where it attaches to the plantar fascia, a long band of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot. This connective tissue holds the arch together and acts as a shock absorber during activity. If the plantar fascia is overstretched from running, wearing poor-fitting shoes, or being overweight, pain can result from the stress and inflammation of the tissue pulling on the bone. Over time, the body builds extra bone in response to this stress resulting in heel spurs. Treatment options may include:

What is a corn?

Corns are yellowish, callus growths that develop on top of the toes. Corns develop because of abuse or stress. Often, a corn develops where a toe rubs against a shoe or another toe. Corns can cause extreme discomfort and pain. Treatment may include:

To avoid corn development, always purchase footwear that fits properly.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a protrusion of bone or tissue around a joint. Bunions may occur at the base of the great toe or at the base of the little toe, and often occur when the joint is stressed over a period of time. Women are more frequently affected because they may wear tight, pointed, and confining shoes. Bunions can also be a result of arthritis which often affects the big toe joint.

Treatment of bunions may vary depending on the pain and deformity. Treatment may include:

What is Morton's neuroma?

Morton's neuroma is a buildup of benign (noncancerous) tissue in the nerves running between the long bones of the foot. Morton's neuroma occurs when two bones rub together and squeeze the nerve between them. Most often, neuromas develop between the bones leading to the third and fourth toes. Morton's neuroma often causes swelling, tenderness, and pain. If the pain becomes severe, it may cause tingling, numbness, and burning in the toes. It usually occurs after standing or walking for a long period of time. Treatment for this condition may involve rest and/or a change in footwear that does not restrict the foot. If the problem persists, cortisone injections and/or surgery may be considered.

What are hammertoes?

A hammertoe is a condition in which the toe buckles, causing the middle joint of the affected toe to poke out. This condition is often aggravated by tight-fitting shoes that put pressure on the hammertoe. Often a corn develops at this site. Treatment for hammertoes may include:

Illustration demonstrating the three ligaments involved in ankle sprains/strains
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What is an ankle sprain?

An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the ankle. Ligaments are tough bands of elastic tissue that connect bones to each other. Ankle sprains may occur if the ankle rolls, turns, or twists beyond its normal range of motion. Ankle sprains may be caused by awkward foot placement, irregular surfaces, weak muscles, loose ligaments, or wearing shoes with spiked heels. The symptoms of a sprain will depend on how severely the ligaments are stretched or torn but usually include swelling, pain, or bruising. Treatment will depend on the severity of the sprain and may include:

What is a foot fracture?

With 26 bones in a single foot, almost any of them can be broken. Many fractures do not require surgery, or even a cast, as they will heal on their own with some support. When a foot is fractured, the site of the fracture usually is painful and swollen. The site of the fracture will determine the course of treatment, if necessary, including the following:

What is foot pain?

Foot pain can be debilitating to an active lifestyle. Foot pain can have many sources, from fractures and sprains to nerve damage. Listed below are three common areas of pain in the foot and their causes:

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