An active life is great for the body. It builds muscles, strengthens bones, keeps your heart and lungs healthy, and generally improves your mood and quality of life. However, active hobbies like sports, running, hiking, and other athletic activities also come with risks. Overuse and other sports injuries are common, keeping people from the lifestyle they love. Fortunately, overuse injuries are treatable and can even be prevented.
How Feet Get Overworked
Feet support a lot of pressure, even when you’re standing still. Running, jumping, kicking, spinning, and anything else you do while playing sports or otherwise being active puts additional strain on the lower limbs. Your feet are designed to handle this stress to a degree, but sports can push your feet past their limits. This can lead to fatigue and overuse, which can cause painful injuries.
Common Overuse Injuries
Most overuse injuries develop slowly. This is different from traumatic injuries like sprains, which happen suddenly as the result of an accident. With overuse, strain and stress can cause inflammation, swelling, and other damage over time. Your feet feel worst when you are active, and may improve somewhat when you give them a break. Unless they are treated, however, the damage to your lower limbs compounds and actually gets worse. Eventually pain from overuse injuries can impair normal, daily activities and make simply standing a chore.
Here are some of the most common overuse issues that affect active feet:
- Plantar fasciitis – This common source of heel pain is the result of excessive strain on the plantar fascia ligament, overstretching it. The swelling, thickening, and inflammation in the ligament often makes being active quite painful.
- Tendonitis – Excessive strain on tendons like your Achilles can lead to inflammation and degeneration of the connective tissue. This makes it painful to use whatever tendons are affected.
- Metatarsalgia and forefoot pain – Pressure on the forefoot can lead to many different problems, including sesamoiditis. As a result, pushing off the ground to walk or run can become difficult.
- Stress fractures – Enough repetitive hard impacts or stress on the feet can create tiny cracks in bone tissue. Without treatment, these cracks can get wider under pressure and lead to a full break later.
- Sever’s disease – In children, overuse from activities can lead to inflammation in the heel bone’s growth plate. This can make running around and playing uncomfortable for your child.
Treating Overworked Feet
Fortunately, treating overuse injuries doesn’t have to be difficult. The earlier the problems are caught, the easier the conditions are to manage. A specialist like Dr. Mitchell Wachtel will examine your lower limbs to diagnose the specific condition. From there, you can begin a targeted treatment plan to address your unique needs.
No matter what causes your pain, your feet will need rest. This may mean temporarily scaling back your activities. It’s possible your feet may need better support to handle the strain of your sports or other hobbies, so you might need to change your footwear or use custom orthotics. In some cases, you may need physical therapy to help address the problem. Other treatment methods may become options for you depending on what your feet and ankles need, particularly if you have preexisting conditions like diabetes that affect injuries and healing.
Preventing overuse injuries from developing again will be an important part of keeping your active feet healthy. Always wear shoes that support your feet the way you need them to when you’re active. Continue using your orthotics if you need them. Always warm up and cool down appropriately before and after participating in sports. Condition your feet for your activities, too, so they are stronger and better prepared for strain.No one likes giving up their favorite activities because of foot pain. With the right foot care, you don’t have to. If you’re struggling with pain when you’re active, don’t ignore the problem. Let our experts with Mitchell Wachtel, DPM in North Andover, Lowell, and Haverhill, MA, help you take care of your lower limbs. We’ll get you back on your feet and help you prevent future overuse injuries. Contact us today for more information through our website or by calling (978) 794-8406.