3 Unusual Causes of Foot Pain – And How To Treat Them
Most foot pain is caused by common problems such as sprains, strains, wearing ill-fitting shoes, or spending a lot of time on your feet. However, there are various causes of foot pain that are a little more uncommon, yet just as painful for the patient. If you are experiencing foot pain in your toes, balls of the feet, foot arches, heels, or ankles, it’s likely that you are experiencing a common condition such as plantar fasciitis, or your feet are under a lot of pressure from standing up all day without adequate support for them from your shoes. However, if the pain does not go away with time, changing into more supportive footwear, rest, or home remedies such as massage and foot soaks, it could be a more serious problem that you are dealing with.
Adductor Hallucis Pain
The adductor hallucis is a muscle that most of us have probably never heard of, but we all have one in our feet. If you are experiencing pain in your foot especially around your big toe, there is a chance that this could be the result of an injury to this muscle since it is a significant muscle in the foot. It is found at the bottom of the foot where it divides into two heads. The oblique head attaches to the metatarsal bones in your second, third, and fourth toes, while the transverse head attaches to the ligaments in the second, third, and fourth toes. The adductor hallucis has a number of functions in the foot, which is why injury to it can easily be noticed with pain when you attempt to move your feet in certain ways. It is responsible for:
- Big toe movement: This major muscle is responsible for moving the big toe towards the rest of your other toes.
- Bending: The adductor hallucis muscle is responsible for your ability to bend your big toe downwards. If this muscle is not injured and operating as it should, you should be able to easily bend your big toe.
- Stabilisation: The adductor hallucis, along with other muscles, is responsible for stabilisation of the foot when standing or walking.
There are various ways in which your adductor hallucis muscle can become injured. These include:
- Prolonged and repetitive strain on the foot
- Running across uneven surfaces or surfaces that are not smooth
- Displacement of ankle bones when carrying excessive weight
- Wearing ill-fitting, non-supportive shoes for an extended period
Some common signs and symptoms that you may notice if you are experiencing an injury to the adductor hallucis muscle include:
- Pain on the inside half of your ankle
- A change in gait due to a painful big toe
- Pain when touching the big toe
- Pain on the inside half of the foot
To treat an adductor hallucis injury, you should first get checked by your doctor who can recommend treatments or medication. Over-the-counter painkillers can help with the painful symptoms, and you should rest your foot for some time. Wearing supportive shoes when standing or walking may also help.
Abductor Hallucis Muscle Pain
Another major muscle in the foot that you may not be aware of is the abductor hallucis. This muscle is located along the inside of the foot and runs from the heel bone towards the side of your big toe. Straining or otherwise injuring this muscle can lead to experiencing pain in the arch of your foot, particularly along the inside.
The abductor hallucis muscle connects your heel bone to your big toe. When it contracts, it is responsible for bending your big toe sideways. It also has a major role in supporting the arches of your feet, preventing overpronation as your foot rolls in and flattens when you walk.
If you have experienced an injury such as a strain to your abductor hallucis muscle, you may be having the following symptoms:
- Overpronation of the feet, which is where your feet roll in too much when walking
- Pain that is felt along the inside arch of your foot
- Tenderness, pain, and in some cases swelling on the sole of the foot particularly close to the inside
- Tenderness and pain when pressing into the sole of the foot
If you have experienced a strain or other injury to your abductor hallucis, there are several things that you can do to support your feet and promote healing while relieving the pain.
- Rest: It’s important to rest your feet, especially if you typically lead an active lifestyle. If you exercise, it’s important to take a break from any exercise that requires you to stand, walk or run since continuing to train will only make the injury worse and delay the healing process. Mild strains will typically only require a few days of resting your feet. If you do not want to quit exercising altogether while your injury heals, you might want to try exercises such as swimming or cycling that do not put any pressure on your feet.
- Ice: Applying cold therapy such as an ice pack to the affected area of your foot can be very helpful. After an injury, you should apply ice for ten minutes every hour for the first few hours, eventually going down to two to three times per day as the pain and swelling are reduced.
- Taping: You can use tape or bandages around the arch of the foot to provide additional support and reduce the stress on the injured muscle.
- Insoles: If you have noticed overpronation or other issues while walking, insoles designed to provide extra support to the arches of your feet, or custom orthotics can help.
- Massage: If you have injured this muscle, deep tissue massage can be beneficial after the initial acute stage. This could be anywhere between 48 hours to a week or more depending on the severity of the injury.
- Stretching: Once the pain has begun to be more manageable, stretching and strengthening exercises are important for improving healing and rehabilitating your foot.
Hallux Rigidus Pain Relief
Hallux Rigidus, also known as Big Toe Arthritis, occurs when arthritis affects the big toe joint, limiting the motion and often causing the motion to become painful. This condition is very common, but thankfully, there are several ways to treat it and get pain relief. Generally, it is caused by wear and tears on the joint of the big toe caused by standing, walking, and running. There is also a genetic factor, with some people more prone to the condition compared to others. Surgery can often be an option for people who are suffering from severe Hallux Rigidus, but it is possible to get pain relief without a surgical procedure.
Hallux Rigidus is often seen in people who participate in sports where their feet are required to take on loading, stressing, and extending movements. This causes the feet to become more susceptible to sprains and micro-trauma in the joint located at the base of the big toe. It can also increase the risk of developing osteophytes or bone spurs. Sports such as football which are played on artificial turf tend to cause these types of toe injuries in sports most often.
However, Hallux Rigidus is not only for athletes. You may be at risk if you have excessive pronation or rolling in of the ankles, or if you have fallen arches or flat feet. It may also be caused by certain inflammatory diseases such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
Some options to consider if you are suffering from this condition include:
- Resting: You should avoid any activities such as walking, running, and jumping that may worsen the pain. For exercise, consider activities such as cycling or swimming that do not put any extra pressure on your big toe until you start to see an improvement in symptoms. This will allow the inflammation and pain to reduce and promote a return to a normal range of movement.
- Anti-inflammatory medications: You can take over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce the inflammation and any swelling in your big toe. You may also want to ask your doctor to prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. Always get the advice of your doctor before taking any new medications especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
- Injections: Your doctor may prescribe you a corticosteroid injection into the affected area designed to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.
- Orthotics: Hallux Rigidus can often lead to gait problems such as overpronation, which can make the problem worse. Custom orthotics can be added to your footwear to correct the positioning of your foot when walking and offer additional support.
- Physical therapy: Stretches and other exercises can be used to help increase the range of motion in the toe.
- Surgery: In extreme cases, you may be required to undergo surgery to remove any bony growths on the top of the toe joint that could be contributing to the pain and discomfort.
- Arthroplasty: In very extreme cases, a total arthroplasty, or joint replacement, can be carried out.
While most causes of foot pain are quite common and easily treatable, if you’re experiencing severe pain or have recently injured your foot, you may be dealing with one of these less common problems.