Happy Feet: The Healthy, Pretty, Pain-Free Foot Care Guide
5 Pain Solutions
The five most common things that can go wrong down there -- and how to eliminate every last ache and pain.
- Foot Cramps
Those weird muscle spasms that can make your toes or arches lock up.
Make it better: Drink plenty of water, especially when you're active (dehydration is a major cause), and strengthen your feet. "We don't use the small muscles in our feet effectively, so lactic acid builds up and the muscles go into spasm," says Dr. Ross.
Try this: Sit in a chair, place a hand towel on the floor, and pick it up with your foot. Continue, alternating feet, until your toes are tired, and repeat daily.
- Plantar Fasciitis
A sharp pain under your heel due to inflammation of the tissue that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes.
Make it better: Take ibuprofen (if approved by your doctor) and rest your foot for a week or so, advises Dr. Ross. When you start exercising again, take it easy.
Try this: Stretching can help. Cross the ankle of the foot that's bothering you over your opposite knee, then bend your toes back with one hand as you massage the arch of your foot with the other. Do this for 30 seconds three or four times a day. If the pain persists, see your doctor, who may give you a cortisone injection to reduce the inflammation.
- Plantar Warts
These crop up on the soles of your feet and are caused by a viral infection.
Make it better: Apply an over-the-counter wart treatment, such as a salicylic acid patch. If it doesn't clear up in a few weeks, see your doctor for a more potent in-office treatment, such as freezing the wart off, says Dr. Ross.
- Stress Fracture
A small crack in a bone in your foot (for runners, often in the forefoot) that causes pain and swelling. Suddenly upping the intensity or frequency of your workouts can cause this, says Dr. Ross.
Make it better: Go easy on yourself. Light, low-impact exercise -- walking or swimming -- is okay if it's not painful. Otherwise, take a break for a few days. Stress fractures often heal on their own, but if the pain persists after several weeks, see your doctor to rule out a more severe break, advises Dr. Ross. Once you're feeling better, be sure to up the intensity of your workouts gradually.
- Achilles Tendinitis
A sharp pain above your heel bone that occurs when you stand or walk, caused by inflammation of the tendon that runs up the back of your ankle. People who have mild cases often notice the pain only after exercising.
Make it better: Avoid strenuous activity for a few weeks and take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if approved by your doctor) to ease soreness and swelling. And be sure to stretch the area before working out. "Wearing heels, then exercising without stretching first, puts extra stress on the tendon," says Dr. Ross.
Try this: To limber up, lower your heels off a step and hold for 10 seconds. Do this two or three times daily, with your knees bent, then straight (this hits different parts of the tendon). As with any injury that is very painful or doesn't get better in a few weeks, see your doctor.
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