Tuesday, April 25, 2017

When Is It Time to See a Doctor About Foot Pain?

Foot pain is an increasingly common complaint that doctors surprisingly hear little about. 87% of older adults report experiencing foot pain according to an International Council on Active Aging study, but alerting this change to caregivers or healthcare providers is rare.

Why? As we age, many of us assume foot pain is simply par for the course and we shouldn’t think much of it. Any type of pain that negatively affects day to day living, however, is detrimental to your health. Foot pain is especially jeopardizing - it can impair mobility and prevent adults from staying active and exercising. Those unhealthy behaviors then quickly translate into weight gain, diminished heart health, weakness, and even cognitive decline. So when exactly is it time to see a doctor about foot pain?

When Other Treatments Aren’t Working

A simple search online reveals loads of non-medicinal paths you can take towards alleviating foot pain. Orthotic inserts that provide arch support and cushioning, bunion night splints that help prevent bunions from progressing, Epsom salt soaks, electrolyte supplements, even getting your foot measured and buying a new pair of well-fitting shoes - if none of these tactics seem to relieve your chronic foot pain, it is time to visit your doctor and see if you need a referral to a podiatrist.

When You Are Experiencing Multiple Falls

Experiencing a fall can be life-threatening for older adults - bruises, hip fractures, lacerations, and sprains can result in hospitalization and long recovery times. Say your fall doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor? Don’t get ahead of yourself. If foot, ankle or leg pain have you falling multiple times within a month, visiting a doctor as soon as possible is a must. In order to maintain your mobility, addressing your foot pain and any other potential causes of your falls (environmental barriers, loss in vision, reduced balance, etc.) needs to happen right away.

When Pain is Moving Up Your Leg

If your chronic foot pain is beginning to radiate up your leg, get to an MD right away. Serious conditions like Achilles tendinitis (where the tissue connecting your calf and heel becomes inflamed) can cause throbbing pain in your leg, while foot pain from heel spurs and stone bruises which obstruct your normal way of walking can result in strain and inflammation in your ankle and surrounding tissue.

When You Notice Visible Deformities

Feet so often go under the radar that visible inspections of them might not be on your daily schedule. Visible deformities like hammer toe (where one of your toes becomes permanently bent downwards), bunions (a bony swollen bump next to your big toe) and even swollen infections from ingrown toenails should be addressed by your doctor so a treatment plan can be developed quickly.

Being proactive is a key ingredient in the recipe of aging. Just as you get preventative screenings and wellness checkups for your lungs, colon, prostate, breasts, heart, eyes, ears, and muscles, so should you pay attentive care to your feet. Don’t let foot pain get the better of you - early conversations and proactive action can relieve pain, extend your mobility, and help you live a longer, fuller life.

This is a guest blog entry.

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