The human foot contains 19 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and 107 ligaments. This means that the foot is incredibly prone to injuries of all kinds. However, a new study out of Australia has determined that foot pain depends much more on lifestyle and activity level than anything else.
Research completed by foot specialists at the University of Adelaide, Australia, showed that foot pain isn’t a randomized illness — meaning foot pain follows a similar pattern in those who live comparable lifestyles. For example, the study found that middle-aged men were most likely to suffer from foot pain and toenail pain more than any other demographic, especially if they were obese.
Young women runners, on the other hand, suffer the most from pain in the balls of their feet and tend to have damaged nerves in their heels from the constant pressure of running.
Additionally, alcohol consumption plays a role in foot pain; a high amount of alcohol in the bloodstream can lead to different musculoskeletal pain in different areas of the body.
The study was completed with data from 558 Australians of all ages, with differing degrees of foot issues. Overall, the study found that young people between the ages of 20 to 34 are most likely to experience heel, back foot, and arch problems. This goes against the previous assumption that middle-aged, non-athletic women were more likely to experience these symptoms.
Why are the researchers so excited about the study? Head researcher Tiffany Gill said that the data can be used to prevent foot injuries before they happen. At a time when the typical American spends upwards of $2,000 each year on out of pocket medical expenses, preventative medicine is key to achieving healthy and affordably outcomes.
‘Foot pain is a problem that is often under-recognised but can have a significant impact on daily life and activities,” Gill said. “By understanding the characteristics of those reporting that they have foot pain, we can potentially provide more targeted preventative strategies and treatments for at risk individuals.”
The issue of diabetes was also among the study’s key findings, as this disease attacks the nerves, joints, and bones in the feet in particular. Diabetic foot pain can be characterized by tingling, numbness, or burning in the feet, and these feelings can lead to the patient losing all sense of sensation in their feet. This is especially dangerous because they will not be able to feel pain when they stub their toe, cut their foot, or even break a bone, as the neurological pathways between the feet and the brain are compromised.
To prevent diabetic foot pain and/or issues, it is important to be mindful of your injuries. Some commonly recommended foot care tips include:
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet that is high in antioxidants such as those found in fruit and vegetables will be able to prevent painful inflammation.
- Inspect your feet twice a day for any bumps, cuts, or bruises. It could be possible not to have felt the injury when it happened.
- Keep moisture away from the feet. Rinse thoroughly after bathing, and never use lotion between the toes.
- Do not use a heating pad or a hot water bottle; instead, use ice for pain relief.
- Invest in regular toenail trims from a manicurist who specializes in diabetic foot problems.
- Motion is the best lotion! The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults between 18-64 years of age engage in two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. While it may be uncomfortable at first, moving the foot around is the best way to relieve tension or stress deep within its joints.