Fibromyalgia treatment should extend from the top of the head to the tips of the toes – literally. Although the feet are not the place most likely to suffer from pain in fibromyalgia, in a recent article published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy , about half of the 202 fibromyalgia patients studied reported foot problems.
“Compensation for foot pain leads to pain in the knees, hips and lower back,” says Dennis Frisch, DPM, a podiatrist in a private practice in Boca Raton, Florida. If you are already dealing with fibromyalgia symptoms, this is added pain that you don’t need. In addition, foot pain increases the risk of you falling and having an injury or simply being less active than you might want to be.
Chances are, with fibromyalgia, you are aware of the pain that other people simply ignore. “In general, because people with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain and less tolerant to pain, they are more sensitive to pain everywhere,” says Dr. Frisch. In fact, experts believe that at least one in four people has foot pain, but many, if not most, simply don’t get treatment.
Reconnecting the dots
There are also common sources of foot pain that are not directly linked to fibromyalgia, but can be intensified by having this condition. One example is Morton’s neuroma, a benign enlargement of a nerve that causes tingling and sharp pain between the third and fourth toes. This unpleasant condition can be treated with cortisone injections or surgery.
Plantar fasciitis is also a common source of foot pain. With this condition, the soft connective tissue under the foot becomes inflamed and painful. It is often the result of poor footwear choices. Choosing a support arch can help prevent pain.
Being active despite foot pain
The problem with foot pain, says Frisch, is that it becomes a vicious cycle. Because people with fibromyalgia often feel fatigued, they may not have enough of the physical activity they need to feel better. However, if they start trying to increase physical activity, they may initially experience some discomfort or even hurt their feet, blame fibromyalgia and stop trying to be active. “Usually, for fibromyalgia, the recommendation is to walk,” adds Frisch.
If you want to deal with fibromyalgia and avoid unnecessary foot pain, try following these steps:
- Meet your doctor. You should, of course, consult your podiatrist if you experience any pain in your feet. But meeting with your podiatrist or doctor when you are trying to start an exercise regime can help you make better decisions and keep your feet healthy.
- Choose the right shoe. “Make sure you have the right shoe for any activity you are going to do,” advises Frisch. If you can afford it, it pays to pay a little more for a quality sneaker that will help prevent pain. Look for shoes that have a wide toecap, a support arch and a sole that offers support and flexibility.
- Start gently. Fibromyalgia is an unpredictable condition, says Frisch. On a good day, you may be tempted to overdo the exercise or wear very high heels; choose moderation if you want to avoid pain.
- Wait and accept any discomfort. A little discomfort when you start an exercise program is not uncommon. But if you feel pain, it’s time to call your doctor.
- Switch to the lower heels for daily use. If you’re passionate about heels, keeping your height below an inch is best for your fibromyalgia symptoms, says Frisch. If you really want to have a higher heel, put your sensible shoes in a large bag so you can make a quick and comfortable change.
Finally, says Frisch, remember that your podiatrist can treat foot pain and make recommendations for better footwear and other changes, but cannot address the general picture of fibromyalgia. A medical team approach is even better for the complete treatment of fibromyalgia