Monday, May 6, 2013

Treating Aching Feet

Wall Street Journal
by Nancy Matsumoto

Sore feet are the bane of people who spend their days standing or walking. Anne Holly Johnson, who specializes in foot and ankle orthopedic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, offers one view on what can ease discomfort.

Your feet bear the load weight of the body. “Naturally, if you stand for long periods, the load gets heavy for the feet, joints, and ligaments,” Dr. Johnson says. For people with swollen feet at day’s end, walking and moving the feet and ankles up and down can help as it circulates blood back to the heart. “If you’re standing on your feet all day long and not contracting your muscles, everything drains to the feet,” she says. The swelling that results causes pain, exacerbated by shoes that might not accommodate it. Even people with sedentary jobs can get sore feet. Short bursts of activity followed by a lot of sitting “can cause one’s calves to get very tight, and that causes the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia [tissue that helps support the foot's arch] to tighten,” says Dr. Johnson.

Elevating your feet or rubbing them can help. Dr. Johnson puts many patients who experience foot pain and foot fatigue on a twice-a-day stretching regimen for their calves, which relieves muscle tightness and pain in the ankle and foot. She recommends a basic runner’s stretch: With arms out in front and pressing against a wall or other surface, bend at the waist and extend one foot behind the other until you feel the stretch in your calf. Your heels should be flat on the ground.

Epsom salt foot baths, Dr. Johnson says, are considered soothing, but she hasn’t seen scientific studies that explain how they relieve muscle soreness. Some people attribute epsom salt’s therapeutic effect to magnesium sulfate, which may draw out excess fluid in the feet.

High heels can cause more foot distress because you’re putting all your weight on the balls of your feet, says Dr. Johnson. She suggests wearing a wider, chunkier heel for better weight distribution. Another trick is to go up half a size and put thin pads in the front of the shoe, she says. This creates more space in the shoe’s toe area so your toes aren’t as constricted. Taking shoes off discreetly at work for even a few minutesand doing the runner’s stretch can make a “huge difference” for people with pain on the bottom of their foot, she says.

Probably not. Just make sure that your shoes are comfortable. Feet tend to get bigger over time, so make sure to have them remeasured every time you buy shoes to get the right size.

Weight loss can also help. “Since your feet and ankles support your entire body weight, even a small amount of weight loss can take an exponential amount of weight off the foot,” Dr. Johnson says. Every pound of weight lost is like 3 to 4 pounds in decreased pressure on the feet and ankles.

If the pain persists after a full night’s rest, continues or gets worse, stops you from getting through the day or doing something you enjoy, have a doctor take a look at it. It could be a sign of tendon problems, arthritis in the foot or ankle, or a stress fracture.

See article of Wall Street Journal's website

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