Foot and Ankle Pain
Your feet and ankles make up the base for the body to stand on. They are important to help keep your balance whether you are standing or sitting. These joints are constantly re-adjusting their movements to make sure that you don't fall over. When living with foot and ankle pain, it can be difficult to complete the easiest daily tasks, like getting in or out of a tub or shower. Here you'll find information on what most commonly causes foot and ankle pain and what can be done to prevent it from getting worse.
Scroll down to learn about what types of treatments you should be looking for, what physicians often don't have time to talk about, how our workshops might be helpful, and other services that can help you prevent your ankle or foot pain from getting worse. We are here to help you. Let's do this together!
What Causes Ankle and Foot Pain?
Your ankle and feet are made up of several tiny bones that inter-connect with each other. Most of these bones are held together by tiny ligaments. There are also tiny muscles in the feet that provide support and help absorb some of the impact when walking, running or jumping. One of the most important muscles in the foot are the ones that hold the arch of your foot. If these muscles don't work properly, this can change your alignment from your ankle, to your knee and hip, all the way up to your back, and cause pain in each of these places.
Common causes of ankle and foot pain include:
Injury (like a sprain, or a broken bone)
Certain types of shoes (like high heels)
Types of Treatments
Many research studies are looking at the impact that physiotherapy can have on ankle and foot pain. Most people turn to pain medications or injections, and often don't get any long term relief. These methods help to mask the pain temporarily but don't help the cause of the problem. When the pain keeps coming back, many will consider wearing orthotics or surgery.
Physiotherapy can help identify the cause of the problem, provide treatment and share strategies for you to manage your pain at home. It is never too early or too late to start correcting your movement patterns, reduce your pain and get back to a normal life.
The cause of ankle and foot pain is not always easy to find. Most people will have an X-Ray or a MRI done to see if the cause can be identified. These test results often show arthritis with degeneration. People might try to find an podiatrist (foot doctor) and get a prescription for orthotics.
With manual therapy, a physiotherapist can have a look at how the joints are moving, as well as how the muscles are helping with movement. They can verify if any nerves are being compressed or irritated. They can check to see if any ligaments are injured. These are all things that could cause pain, but can't be seen on an X-Ray or MRI, and can't be fixed by wearing orthotics.
Once the cause is identified, manual therapy can help your joint move better, and help your muscles relax. You should feel some relief after the first few treatments. Your physiotherapist should show you some exercises to make sure that the pain keeps improving, and doesn't come back!
When choosing exercises for your hip and knee pain, you want to make sure that you are not putting yourself at risk of falling. If you've been feeling pain for a long time, chances are that your balance has been affected. Make sure to check that your joints are well aligned and hold on to a stable surface for balance.
Once you know the cause of the problem, a physiotherapist can prescribe you specific exercises to get you back on track, without making your pain worse or losing your balance. Then you can gradually find things that are more challenging, to get back to your daily activities without pain.
The type of exercise that you do is important. Your brain is most likely to remember how to recruit your muscles if you practice during activities that are meaningful to you. We want to make the changes permanent, so we use activities that you enjoy in the clinic, and in your Home Exercise Program.
In order to make the brain understand which muscles should be working, it is important to practice your exercises correctly, and often. Just like remembering a new phone number. You might choose to review it, to make sure you remember it correctly, then you will repeat it to yourself often to make sure that you don't forget it.
The same strategy applies to your movements. You need to make sure that you are recruiting the muscles that improve your alignment and movement patterns every time you perform an activity, like walking, or climbing stairs. For this reason, our treatment plans are designed with visits 1 to 2 times per week.
The length of treatment has two components. First, the type of session, and second, the total length of the treatment plan.
There are two types of sessions to choose from: regular treatment and complex treatment. Most people with foot or ankle pain benefit from regular treatment sessions, that focus on only one problem. If you have pain in more than one place, sometimes a complex treatment session is beneficial to address more than one problem at once.
For your first treatment plan, we often suggest a duration of 4 weeks. This allows us to see how you progress and how you are doing with your Home Exercise Program. After these 4 weeks, you may choose to continue on your own, or to continue for another treatment plan, which can be for up to 12 weeks.
The duration of your treatment will be discussed with your physiotherapist on the day of your initial assessment. Depending on what the findings are, and what your goals are, you will talk about what type of treatment session is most appropriate and how many weeks you should start with.
Exercise is Important!
What to expect from your specialist (and what not to):
When you are first experiencing foot and ankle pain, you might not be sure what to do next. Your specialist has likely talked to you about your X-Ray or MRI and what surgery can do for you. The topic of exercise has likely come up, but it might not be clear whether exercise is good or bad.
Here's some information that your specialist won't discuss with you: Exercise can help reduce pain. When you learn to use good patterns when walking or climbing stairs, your foot and ankle joints are able to keep a better alignment and prevent strain on your ligaments and nerves. By working on the alignment of your foot and ankle, you'll be able to continue moving around without pain.
Exercise is very important to make sure that you continue to move with good patterns, to prevent the onset of pain and poor alignment over time. You can do this on your own, or with the help of a physiotherapist. The important thing is that you keep yourself moving as much as possible for as long as possible.