Sore feet can be debilitating. They can change your life and make even the most simple day to day tasks difficult and unpleasant. So it’s quite normal (especially if you’ve been in pain for a while) to try anything to make them feel better! But sometimes, in spite of your best intentions, you can actually be doing more harm than good. So here’s a little cheat sheet to get you back to putting your best foot forward without all the running (limping?) around.
GET HELP EARLY
Too often I see people who have been suffering with foot pain for over 12 months. Patients usually blame old age (Uncle Arthur-ritis) or just hope that it will get better on its own (the Abracadabra approach). More often than not, foot pain is not going to magically disappear. And if arthritis is involved, it’s not a death sentence! Although osteoarthritis can’t be reversed, it can be slowed by improving function to keep things moving – motion is the lotion!!
Studies have shown that the longer foot pain is left unaddressed, the longer the recovery period will be. Not only that, but the risk of extra complications may rise. A sore foot creates a little domino effect. The body is very clever at compensating and finding the path of least resistance – at least for a while. If one part of your foot is sore, you will move slightly differently to avoid pain and discomfort. Often this change is so insignificant that you don’t even realise that you’re doing it. But a small change over a long period of time means that the complex little machine that is your foot starts to break down as it becomes used in a way that it isn’t designed to be used. And the longer the issue is left untreated, the further this domino effect can extend, from the feet all that way up the body. And eventually really impact on your quality of life.
If your feet have been hurting for over a month and before you try all the advice that friends, family, Dr Google and your local butcher/baker/candlestick maker can provide, make an appointment to see a podiatrist. Which brings me to my next point…
GET THE RIGHT HELP IN ALL THE RIGHT PLACES
There are plenty of people and businesses who will promise to make your feet feel better (some even offer a money-back guarantee but beware the fine print!) Some companies even use pretty convincing marketing strategies like rustling up some semi-famous faces out of retirement to convince you of their claims. The underlying problem with these options, however, is that people who are selling products are exactly that; salespeople. They have no medical training and can actually cause more harm than good. Not only that, but you can waste a lot of money! Some of these prefabricated, one-style-fits-all ‘arch supports’ will cost you well over $1500 – with no health fund coverage! And unfortunately, arch support is all you get for that price! There is no initial assessment to check if you actually need arch support (having flat feet doesn’t mean you need an arch support) and no diagnosis (it is actually illegal for a sales person to give you a medical diagnosis). There is no after sales appointment to ensure you’re on the right track, there’s no exercise program to get you moving again and there’s no treatment pathway so that you know where you’re going and whether you’ve got there or not.
The internet can be another place that people turn to in times of need! Let’s face it; it’s easy, you can shop in your p-jays and you get something in the mail other than a bill (I myself am on first name terms with the delivery guy!) And when it comes to feet you can buy anything from magic socks to magic shoes and everything in between! In fact, having so many options with so little direction is the biggest problem. You might actually be buying something for plantar fasciitis (as diagnosed by Dr Google) when in reality you have Achilles tendonitis. And although all of these purchases seem reasonably priced in isolation (just one bottle of wine won’t affect the budget), once you’ve spent money on 3 or 4 things, it soon adds up (the shiraz might be better than the cab sav, pinot noir and merlot). Unfortunately, what this means when you’re in pain is that by the time you see a professional, you’re already feeling disillusioned, downcast and discouraged (proven to affect prognosis) AND you’ve spent so much money on gimmicks and gadgets that the cupboard is pretty bare when it comes to spending money on things that will actually help you!
So where do you go? Get out of your jammies and come see a podiatrist! Podiatrists are medically trained lower limb specialists. When you have an assessment with a podiatrist you can expect a full assessment of joints, muscles and other relevant anatomy; a diagnosis and a treatment plan that incorporates your lifestyle and your goals, both short and long term. You will also have follow up appointments to modify treatment as necessary to get you back to doing what you want to do pain free. The orthoses that podiatrists prescribe (if they are needed) are customised ones matched perfectly to the contours of your feet and designed to reduce pain by helping to increase efficiency and improve function. They are also created to fit into your lifestyle, your shoes and your activities. Plus, they are not the only treatment option and they are never a stand alone intervention – your treatment plan may include adjunct therapies such as exercise prescription, dry needling, massage, shockwave therapy or a return to sport/running program.
Podiatrists offer a health service rather than a sales experience. We can refer you for imaging such as x-rays, MRI’s and ultrasounds to help get to the bottom of your problem. Our services have health fund coverage and we are a part of the health industry. This means that podiatrists have connections with other health professionals such as physiotherapists, orthopedic surgeons and exercise physiologists. If a podiatrist can’t get you all the way back to 100%, they will know just the right person who can! And can work as part of a multidisciplinary team to get you happy, healthy and holistically healed.
If you want happy feet (feet that feel good, not a dancing penguin!) act early and act smart! It will save you time, money and a lot of limping around in the long run!