Painful Feet, What’s My Diagnosis?

Painful FeetWhen I have painful feet, I hurt all over.  I hear this frequently.  I also hear patients seemingly needing to know the exact diagnosis of their problem.  Knowing such seems to be relieving to them so they do not feel like they are just nuts.  However, a diagnosis may be easy to make, yet explaining why they have it can be very complex and difficult to explain.

One recent patient said they had foot pain and went to a doctor. The doctor told the patient “You have 5 problems and we’ll try to avoid surgery.”  The patient wrote them down and presented to me as the treatment plan was physical therapy, which was not helping.   I found that many of the “problems” really had nothing to do with the reason she was having pain, nor were they of any significance as many of us have those same “problems.”.  In that case, one of the diagnoses was a bone cyst which is commonly not a problem.  So why do doctors over diagnose these days?  Some may be for increased reimbursement from insurance payments as it makes the case seem much more complicated.  Others may be to impress you.  Wow, he really knows his stuff.   In reality, many patients can be diagnosed with multiple conditions, yet, some are indicative of a problem and many are not.

Biomechanical Faults

I find painful feet are frequently caused by biomechanical faults.  That is, there are many different shapes of feet yet we all (most all) stand, walk or run on the same flat surface created by the Romans.  All these different shapes are going to deform to the flat surface differently.  Some it will cause a painful problem and some not.  Many diagnoses can be made such as bunions and hammertoes forming, enlargement of the joints with abnormal boney protrusions, especially on the top of the foot, one foot flattening more than the other, etc.   One can come up with a long list of diagnostic signs of a problem, yet they are not really the cause of the pain- the faulty alignment is commonly the cause of the problem.

Now some will say alignment does not matter, as it has not been proven with triple blind placebo-controlled studies. However, aligning feet does help many patients with pain from the feet to their back.  Look at the comfort shoe industry.  It is continually expanding as the public is finding that they feel better with support (from either the shoe or arch within it).

So understanding what you have (diagnosis) is important but WHY you have it and is it contributing to the pain may be more significant to know than just “oh, my doctor said I have 5 problems, that’s why I hurt!”

Learn about some of the conditions that can be caused by biomechanical faults.