What Your Foot Pain Says About Your Lifestyle

New Australian research has shown that aches and pains in the feet can often reveal a lot about your age and lifestyle.

Foot pain can even be caused by how much you like to drink.

The study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, looked at data from 558 people suffering from foot pain.

What they discovered questions the idea that foot pain only affects old people.

Who gets foot pain?

The research from the University of Adelaide found the following:

  • Younger women who love running tend to be more affected by pain in the ball of their foot or the arches.
  • Young people aged 20 to 34 are most likely to have heel, back foot, ball and arch problems raising the risk of the last two of these.
  • Heavy drinkers tend to complain of heel pain. The researcher speculate this is due to nerve damage at the back of the foot.
  • Forefoot, toenail and nail pain affects men more than women, and the over-55s most, especially those with diabetes or arthritis and who are obese.

Lead author Dr Tiffany Gill said: ‘Foot pain is a problem that is often under-recognised but can have a significant impact on daily life and activities.

‘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 study confirmed that women are most likely to suffer foot pain - heel pain is most associated with women in their 40s and 50s with a sedentary lifestyle.  

Drinking causes aches and pains

However, what is interesting is the fact that drinking is associated with foot pain.  Consuming too much alcohol is linked to musculoskeletal pain.

Although the study shows that young people so suffer from foot pain, they are the group least likely to seek help.

Those who seek help tend to be older. Foot pain does increase with age as the tissue becomes more stiff and less flexible, especially under the ball of the foot. 

As a result, pain at the front of their feet is seen is older people. Heel pain is more often seen in middle-aged women who are overweight.

Plantar fasciitis to blame for heel pain

It is often as a result of Plantar fasciitis. Dr Stephanie Kaye Barrett, Rheumatologist and Medical Director of Twenty-five Harley Street day clinic explains this condition presents as pain under the heel when you first stand up in the morning.

“As time goes on, you may have more pain whilst walking and sometimes at night,” she says.  “The underlying problem is related to inflammation of the tendons that lie under the heel and midfoot.”

In the first instance, painkillers and stretching exercises are deployed, but for some people, the agony of plantar fasciitis continues, In these cases, Dr Kaye-Barrett recommends a corticosteroid injection.

She says: “People are often often very afraid of steroid injections as they feel pain from the injection.

“As we use a local anaesthetic spray on the skin before inserting the needle and a steroid plus local anaesthetic, you’ll feel very little pain with our careful techniques.”

More you might like to read

7 ways to treat plantar fasciitis

Diagnosis and treatment of heel pain

Shock Wave therapy for plantar fasciitis

A medication that reduces sensation. Full medical glossary
Inflammation of one or more joints of the body. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
Inflammation of a layer of connective tissue causing pain and tenderness. It is usually caused by straining or injuring the tissue around a muscle and most commonly affects the soles of the feet. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
A medication that reduces sensation in a part of the body. Full medical glossary
Relating to the skeleton and its attached muscles, cartilage, tendons and ligaments that gives structure to the body and enables movement Full medical glossary
Bundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary