Pain across the bottom of the foot at any point between the heel and the ball of the foot is often referred to as “arch pain.” Although this description is non-specific, most arch pain is due to strain or inflammation of the plantar fascia (a long ligament on the bottom of the foot). This condition is known as plantar fasciitis and is sometimes associated with a heel spur.
In most cases, arch pain develops from overuse, unsupportive shoes, weight gain, or acute injury. If pain persists beyond a few days, see a foot and ankle surgeon for treatment to prevent this condition from becoming worse.
Causes of Arch Pain
There are a number of factors that can contribute to arch pain, including:
- Overuse: Arch pain is often caused by repetitive stress on the plantar fascia. This can happen from activities like running, jumping, or standing for long periods of time.
- Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that don’t provide enough arch support can put stress on the plantar fascia and lead to arch pain.
- Foot deformities: Certain foot deformities, such as flat feet or high arches, can increase the risk of pain.
- Age: This pain is more common in people over the age of 40. This is because the plantar fascia tends to weaken with age.
- Certain medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of arch pain.
Symptoms of Arch Pain
The symptoms of pain can vary depending on the severity of the problem. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain in the arch of the foot
- Swelling in the arch of the foot
- Tenderness to the touch
- Difficulty walking, running, or standing for long periods of time
Treatment for Arch Pain
The treatment for pain will vary depending on the severity of the problem. In some cases, simple home treatments, such as rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), may be enough to relieve the pain. In other cases, more aggressive treatments, such as physical therapy or surgery, may be necessary.
Home Treatments for Arch Pain
The following home treatments can help to relieve pain:
- Rest: Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain can help to give the plantar fascia time to heal.
- Ice: Applying ice to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time can help to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Compression: Wrapping the affected area with an elastic bandage can help to reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Elevating the affected foot above the heart can help to reduce swelling and pain.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to relieve pain and inflammation.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a stronger pain reliever, such as a corticosteroid injection.
Physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in the foot and improve flexibility.
Wearing shoes that provide good arch support can help to reduce stress on the plantar fascia and prevent arch pain.
In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a torn plantar fascia or to correct a foot deformity.
Preventing Arch Pain
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent arch pain, including:
- Warm up before exercise: Warming up before exercise helps to prepare the muscles and ligaments for activity.
- Stretch after exercise: Stretching after exercise helps to improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Wear supportive shoes: Shoes that provide good arch support can help to reduce stress on the plantar fascia.
- Avoid activities that aggravate the pain: If you have pain, avoid activities that put a lot of stress on the feet, such as running and jumping.
If you have any concerns about arch pain, be sure to see a doctor or physical therapist. They can help you to determine the cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan to relieve the pain and prevent further problems.