Some foot conditions come on gradually, like plantar fasciitis, which starts as a stabbing pain in the heel and then often grows more severe over time. Others are more sudden, like an ankle sprain or broken toe, both of which lead to immediate pain and make it difficult to put any pressure on the injured leg. Regardless of the manner in which these symptoms develop, the end result is often the same: an inability to get around and function normally. For active individuals, it also means participating in your respective sport at a lower level or not being able to participate at all.
Everyone responds to pain differently, as some will seek out help immediately, while others delay action until things get worse. One of the good things about foot and ankle injuries is that they are all very treatable, and surgery is not needed in the majority of cases; however, waiting too long to address these conditions is also a dangerous approach. Continuing to exercise despite pain will often add to the damage in the structures of your ankle and feet, which will exacerbate your symptoms and increase the risk for future injuries.
This is why it’s best to take proactive steps any time you’re dealing with foot or ankle pain. For traumatic injuries like ankle sprains, we strongly recommend the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol in the first 24-72 hours to relieve painful symptoms and reduce your risk for further injury during this time. You should also massage the painful area to improve circulation and reduce soreness, and consider adding shoe inserts and replacing old or worn out shoes, which may contribute to overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.
Visit a physical therapist when pain persists
If you’ve taken these measures and pain continues to bother you, the next move you should make is to see a physical therapist as soon as you can. Physical therapists are movement experts that will focus on identifying the source of your pain with a comprehensive evaluation and detailed interview of your injury history. From there, they will design an individualized treatment program to address the impairments identified, which is always based on your needs, preferences, abilities, and goals. A typical rehabilitation plan for a foot or ankle injury includes the following:
- Pain-relieving modalities: ice/heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are often used to reduce pain levels
- Manual therapy: this set of hands-on techniques involves mobilizing and manipulating muscles and joints in specific directions and at different speeds to help you regain lost movement
- Strengthening exercises: these exercises are designed to build back strength that may have been lost in the muscles surrounding the injured area due to reduced activity levels; common strengthening exercises for foot and ankle injuries include calf raises, doming, and scissor hops
- Stretching exercises: stretching out sore, stiff, or painful joints will increase flexibility levels and result in improved function over time; common stretching exercises for foot and ankle injuries include the plantar fascia stretch, towel stretch, and ankle inversion and eversion exercises
- Functional training: if you’re involved in sports, your physical therapist will design specific interventions that mimic the motions and movements involved in that activity, so you’ll be better prepared to handle the demands once you return
So, if you’re dealing with an injury or lingering pain that won’t seem to improve, contact us today to set up an appointment and get started on your path to recover.