To Your Health: Our Feet: Small by Nature, Large in Pain

I tend to write my articles on my personal experiences or those of my clients and players in my 40 years in the fitness field. Many of my clients, especially runners, have inquired about foot pain and discomfort. But, with no personal experience and little knowledge, the best advice I had was to see their doctor. Unfortunately, this changed for me in the past couple years, and I can now share my experience with two of the more common causes of foot pain. I generally don’t like to give advice when it comes to medical issues, but in both of my circumstances, they were self-diagnosable and self-treatable.

The first issue was plantar fasciitis. It’s merely an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. It is the most common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners but can also be attributed to overweight or inadequate support of the shoes we wear. My symptoms came on gradually over time. At first, it started as a dull pain on the bottom of my foot extending toward the heel. Since it didn’t affect my sleep or daily life, I did very little to try and treat my symptoms. But, over time, as the pain worsened, I decided to read up on what might be causing this pain. It pointed directly to plantar fasciitis. I initially tried home treatments of applying ice several times a day and using anti-inflammatory drugs. This seemed to help reduce the pain but was not the answer to ridding the plantar fasciitis. This came with stretching. I started doing a 10-minute stretching program three times a day and, within a week, the pain was gone. This can be done almost anywhere by using a towel wrapped around the top of the foot with the leg straight and pulling the top of the foot back toward the body. This can be rather painful but the farther you pull, the more you will benefit. Do three sets with each lasting a minute. The other stretch was done on a step. You will need steps with a banister or something to hold on to for balance since you only want to be using the foot that is inflamed. Flex the foot as low as you can, and hold for 10 seconds. Do this 10 times each way. Have as much of your foot off the step as you can to maximize the stretch. Not only did this work for me but it has been the answer to many of my clients that have experienced plantar fasciitis.

On my way home from a mini vacation to Nashville, one where all rules and regulations on a healthy diet were excluded as soon as I got out of Clemmons, I started getting a very painful, burning sensation in my big toe. By the end of our six-hour ride, the pain was so excruciating all I wanted to do was stick my foot into a bucket of ice water to try and put out the fire that now had grown to an area below the big toe. As soon as I could get a look at my foot, my wife immediately said I had gout. My knowledge, or lack of knowledge, on gout was that it was directly related to obesity and diabetes, neither of which I have. I immediately went to the computer and pulled up gout. The first site I went to had a picture of gout and, in somewhat disbelief, it was a replica of my foot. Unlike the plantar fasciitis, which seemed to be more of an annoyance, my experience with gout was one of the worst weeks of my life.

Gout is a kind of arthritis. It is caused by too much uric acid in the blood. While your chances of getting gout are higher if you are overweight, drinking too much alcohol or eating too much meat and fish that are high in chemicals called purines can also bring on gout. Not only did I have my diagnosis but the cause of my attack seemed to be a direct result of overindulgence of the many pleasures of my trip to Nashville.

During the week of my gout attack, it had a profound effect on my life. The pain was so bad I couldn’t even put a sheet on the inflamed foot while trying to sleep. Flip-flops were the only shoes I could wear, and anti-inflammatory pills became an every-four-hour regimen with minimal relief from the attack. Normally, I have to be on my deathbed to make a visit to the doctor, but I got in immediately to hopefully get some relief from my pain. The advice I was given was generally the same I had read about on my diet that would prevent future bouts. Then, I was given a prescription that was supposed to help break up the uric acid crystals causing the pain. For me, this gave little, if any, relief from the pain. After several more days of suffering, my wife read about a natural way of getting rid of gout. It said to drink celery and black cherry juice along with a glass of water mixed with a ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Willing to try anything, I went to the store and got started on this natural remedy. Within hours, I started feeling some relief, and within 24 hours, my attack had subsided. I continued the treatment for several days before stopping. Since my initial bout, I have had two occurrences where I felt an oncoming attack. Each time I went back to the celery seed extract, black cherry juice and baking soda with the same results; an end to the gout attack. For anyone that has had gout or develops it in the future, I would highly recommend trying these natural remedies. It really can’t hurt, and as you know, any relief you get is truly welcomed!