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Arthritis Today

Ways to Prevent Foot Pain and Get Around

Proper footwear, shoe inserts and other means to help manage foot pain and get around better.

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In addition to medication and surgery, there are many things you can do on your own or with your doctor or physical therapist to relieve foot pain and maintain your daily activities. Here are some techniques and devices worth trying.

Hot and cold. When feet are swollen and painful from arthritis, cold packs can numb the painful joints and reduce swelling. Cold also is helpful for reducing swelling and inflammation from a new joint injury. For aching feet without acute inflammation, heat may provide relief. For Raynaud's phenomenon, keeping the feet warm is helpful.

Canes and crutches. If placing weight on your foot causes pain, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a cane. There are many different types of canes. The most common type has a single tip, but if you have trouble balancing, your doctor may recommend a quad, or four-point cane. Your doctor can advise the best way to use your cane, but generally you should hold it in the hand opposite the painful foot.

For fractures and particularly painful foot problems, crutches may be used for a short time to take more pressure off of your foot. Speak to your doctor about how – and how long – to use crutches.

Proper footwear. Shoes that cramp the toes or high heels that thrust the foot forward can lead to foot problems, particularly for women, and aggravate the pain they cause. Conversely, selecting appropriate footwear with a wide toe box, ample arch support and low heels can help ease pain.

Orthotic devices. Orthotic devices include foot pads and heel inserts purchased at your local pharmacy or discount store as well as custom-designed and fitted shoe inserts or braces from your doctor or physical therapist.

These devices are often used for various foot problems including:

  • heel pain
  • bunions
  • hammer toe or claw toe
  • Morton's neuroma
  • plantar fasciitis

Learn more about orthotic devices from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Massage. Nothing feels quiet like a good foot rub. Massaging the feet can improve circulation, reduce tension and relieve pain. If you can't afford a spa pedicure or don't have a loved one to help, you can massage your own feet.

Here's how:

  • Get comfortable. Sitting in a comfortable chair, raise and bend one leg and place foot on the opposite thigh.
  • Use moisture and pressure. Pour lotion or oil into your hand and rub it gently to your foot and massage. Knead your entire foot as if you are kneading bread. Use your knuckles or thumbs to massage the skin and underlying tissue.
  • Add gadgets. Rollers or other massagers from the drug store can help if your hands are also sore or you don't have time for a full massage. Another quick tip: roll your foot over a tennis ball.
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