Sore and aching feet are horrible, especially when it’s keeping you up at night! The difficulty being that there are so many causes of painful feet and it’s hard to tell what will and will not help you.
Aching feet at night or nighttime foot pain can be due to a muscular issue, a nerve problem, a bone-related pathology or injury, dermatological or skin-related conditions, an inflammatory process or a vascular concern. All of these branches of health are umbrella terms for many conditions that could lead to the symptoms of aching feet. This list outlines only some of the possibilities that may contribute to your aching and painful feet. It is important to get your foot pain fully assessed by a podiatrist and potentially multiple other professionals to be able to piece together all of the symptoms, medical history and contributors.
How Common is Foot Pain at Night?
Reports show that people who suffer from foot pain are as large as 1 in 5. A higher occurrence of nighttime foot pain is demonstrated in females, those over 50 years of age and those who are overweight. When looking at the population of people below 45 years of age only, the numbers are closer to 1 in 10.
Symptoms of Aching Feet
Along with aching feet you may experience:
- Pain on touch
- Pain in bare feet
- Pain in compressive shoes
- Pain on activity
- Pain at rest or night pain
- Callus which indicated high areas of pressure
It is good to keep track of symptoms as this information helps to form a clinical diagnosis.
How To Diagnose The Problem
A full assessment should be undertaken by a professional. Range of motion, palpation, gait analysis and muscular testing should all be completed to gain an understanding of pathology. A thorough medical history is necessary to be taken and based on symptoms an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be ordered. Again, depending on findings within the consultation a GP (doctor) referral for blood tests may be suggested. A holistic approach is generally needed to gain a full understanding of the cause of your pain.
What Causes Aching Feet At Night
With many conditions, lifestyle influences can come into play, foot pain is no different. Being overweight can contribute to excessive load on joints and muscles. Being underweight can result in vitamin deficiencies, and less absorption of shock and ground forces through the bones along with muscle fatigue. Having a sedentary lifestyle will not equip your muscles to cope with daily activities or higher demand and can lead to strain, on the other hand being extremely active with limited rest or targeted conditioning can lead to overuse injuries.
People whose jobs require them to work on their feet for the majority of the day are more at risk and more so those in ill fitting footwear such as high heels, worn out steel cap boots, or very flat shoes may be more predisposed to foot soreness.
Pain at your foot and toe caused from any disorders, nerve pain, a syndrome or condition can significantly impact a person’s wellness and should therefore be treated before symptoms worsen.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where the nerves at the most distal end of the body are affected. Symptoms can include tingling, numbness and burning. Peripheral neuropathy leaves to the diminished protective sensation of the nerves, essentially meaning they can not function efficiently as nerves and do not respond to foreign objects, protect against harm such as extreme heat or cold, sharp cuts or infection. Peripheral neuropathy can be a result of many conditions such as diabetes, types of cancer and their treatments, alcohol and drug consumption, kidney failure, autoimmune conditions, vitamin deficiency, trauma and injury. Always consult your doctor if neuropathy is present in order to gain referrals to all appropriate specialists to seek treatment.
Fibromyalgia occurs all over the body, it’s an inflammatory process, however symptoms can be heightened in the feet, particularly at the ball of your feet. Fibromyalgia is associated with lower levels of the hormone cortisol which helps regulate inflammation and hence people get aching feet as a result.
Compression of the sciatic nerve can be a very intense pain sharp shooting pain down the back of the leg, or can also be associated with an isolated dull ache in the feet. Jump over to our sister clinic and have a read up further on sciatica here. Treatment for this is best managed by a physio, osteo, myo and/or your doctor.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition affecting the arch and heel of the foot. The plantar fascia is a band of fibrous tissue that originates at the heel and fans up to attach to the base of the toe bones. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Pain generally comes on after exercise or after rest and can be associated with tight calves and weakness of muscles further up the kinetic chain. Read up more here.
A neuroma is a very painful condition involving the thickening of a nerve in your foot. This commonly occurs between the third and fourth long bones in your foot (metatarsals) and can cause a sharp burning or tingling sensation that can radiate into the toes. It can feel like walking on a pebble and can often continue to ache after weight bearing. It mostly occurs due to the mechanics of your foot posture and footwear. Find out more here about the symptoms and treatment for neuroma pain.
Diabetes can affect your feet as it can impact blood flow and circulation, it also has an affect on the nerves and your sensations. Those who have had diabetes for a long time, have poorly controlled blood glucose levels and poor lifestyle choices can see a negative impact on both the circulation (peripheral arterial disease) and nerves which can result in peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral arterial disease occurs as a result of the narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels. Symptoms from this are often aching, sore, and painful feet.
Osteomylitis is an infection of the bone. It can be fatal and should be taken very seriously. It can occur from exposure to external bacteria or internal bone injury and exposure to internal germs in the bloodstream. The infection can travel extremely quickly and if not treated quick enough can lead to limb loss.
Many changes occur in our feet due to pregancy. A hormone laxin is released, which loosens the ligaments in the feet and allows them to become more flexible in aim to cope with excessive load. Pregnancy also affects the way your body absorbs calcium placing you at a higher risk of cramping and aching feet.
Metatarsalgia is a pain that occurs in the long bones of the feet, including the big toe, know as the metatarsals.
It generally occurs when the feet are not supported or strong enough to cope with load. High intensity activity that is spent on the forefoot such as sprinting, gymnastics and boxing are predisposed to this pain. It can feel like a deep bony ache in the ball of the foot, which can be mistaken for arthritis.
Does The Pain Go Away During the Day?
Depending on the pathology, the pain can clear during the day. This is likely to be more muscular, tendon or nerve based. Sometimes the pain will be persistent and then heightened at rest or night which is more likely to be bone or vascular related.
This is a limited list of potential causes of foot pain – there are many others to be considered.
At-Home Treatments for Pain Relief
- Pain relief: Paracetadol is a great place to start, check with a chemist is it is safe for you to take
- Anti-inflammatoires: Ibuprofen for an anti-inflammatory effect will also help with pain (please also check with your chemist)
- Massage: Rolling a water bottle, tennis ball, spiky ball or similar to aid muscular fatigue, target trigger points and assist blood flow to the area
- Stretching and strengthening: a program should be specifically designed for you, however calf raises are always essential, either seated or standing, aligned with your pain levels
- If the injury is recent and swelling has occurred apply ice to the area, if it is an ongoing issue heat is your friend! A heat pack, deep heat or voltaren gel can be used (no heat pack if peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage is present)
- Wear good supportive shoes for cushioning and ensuring that are not too small or narrow
When To Seek Professional Help?
Foot pain is never fun and symptoms are almost always able to improve so getting your legs and feet checked when pain is occuring is always a good idea.
When pain becomes chronic it often requires more time and in intervention to improve foot function, getting assessed sooner rather than later is best, we understand everyone’s circumstances are different and are always a phone call away if needed.
You should definitely book in to see your GP (doctor) or present to a hospital if you have sore feet along with a temperature, fever, loss of appetite, feeling fatigued or feelings of nausea.
If you notice that your pain is getting increasingly worse, home treatments are not helping as they once were and your feet are impacting your activites of daily life and your quality of life we would be happy to see you in the clinic. Book in here! Don’t suffer and have your pain left untreated!