Some aches and pains are easier to blow off than others, but when you consider the big picture, this could be a big mistake. You wouldn’t ignore a headache that came back day after day, and you shouldn’t ignore sore feet, either.
According to Paul F. Brezinski, DPM, a Chicago-area podiatrist and president of the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association, many people routinely pay no attention to foot pain. “The health of your feet, despite their distance from your heart, can affect your overall health,” he says. Foot pain and achiness can stem from multiple causes, and should never be ignored or regarded as just a fact of life.
Your Foot Health
Feet are a vital and complex part of your body. They are considered a marvel of engineering by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Your two feet combined are home to a quarter of your body’s bones – over 50. Tied into all those bones are over 60 joints and 200 muscles. Hard to believe there’s still room for tendons and ligaments in there, but somehow they all fit and work together to make your feet walk, stand, and move.
With so many intricate parts, it’s no wonder the feet suffer from a variety of problems. They have one of the hardest jobs on the body, supporting your weight as you pound around from place to place, enduring tons of force every single day. Brezinski says over the course of your life you put a lot of wear and tear on your feet.
So many things impact our feet every day. If your job requires long periods of standing or frequent walking, your tootsies survive a daily beating. If your exercise routine includes running or walking, that just adds to the trouncing they take. Fashion conscious women compound the problem by walking in heels, often squeezing their poor feet into ill-fitting shoes. Sure, they looked good in the window, but explain that to your poor feet.
Foot Health Problems
Because your feet are farther from your heart than other appendages, they are susceptible to many health problems. Since blood has to travel through the arteries to reach the feet, medical conditions like peripheral arterial disease (a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels) can limit the necessary blood flow south. When this happens, oxygen rich blood needed for good foot health is limited, and the feet must operate with reduced supplies. Nearly 24 million Americans live with diabetes, and since diabetes also limits blood flow, approximately 48 million feet live in short supply of blood. However, this is no laughing matter. This is a serious threat to your health.
Other foot conditions can adversely affect the bones, skin, and tissue inside your feet. Routine annoyances like athlete’s foot and more severe ailments, like misshapen joints of the big toe (bunions) and benign but painful growths on nerves (neuromas), can become big problems over time and affect the health of your feet.
Pay Attention to Foot Health
Never ignore problems of the feet or decide just to live with it since it’s “only” your feet, warns Brenzinski. When walking becomes painful, you’re more apt to change to a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to numerous health problems beyond the feet, including heart disease and many forms of cancer. What seems a small problem to start can suddenly turn very big.
When foot pain becomes an excuse to limit exercise and keeps you from your normal mobility, you need to get medical help. Make an appointment, see a podiatrist (even your normal doctor can help), and get back on your feet without pain. Your body will thank you. So will your feet.