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10 Causes of Lateral Foot Pain and How To Treat It

10 Causes of Lateral Foot Pain and How To Treat It

Introduction

Lateral foot pain is a condition that affects countless individuals—significantly impacting their daily lives and activities. This type of pain, occurring on the lateral side of the foot, can be the result of various factors, including injuries, overuse, or underlying health conditions. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and proper treatment options are crucial steps toward effective management and recovery. 

This article explores the common causes of lateral foot pain, providing insights into how they can be treated and possibly prevented. By shedding light on this condition, we hope to empower readers with the knowledge to address lateral foot pain effectively, improving their overall well-being and mobility.

Anatomy of the Foot

The human foot comprises 26 bones, over 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The lateral aspect of the foot includes the fifth metatarsal bone, the cuboid, the calcaneus, and the peroneal tendons, all of which play pivotal roles in balance, movement, and absorbing the impact of our steps. Understanding the anatomy of the foot is essential for identifying the causes of lateral foot pain. 

This complex structure is designed to withstand high loads but can be susceptible to injury and stress, leading to pain on the lateral side of the foot. By grasping the basic anatomy of the foot, individuals can better understand the origins of their pain and the mechanics behind it, setting the stage for effective lateral foot pain treatment plans and management.

What is Lateral Foot Pain 

Lateral foot pain is discomfort or agony experienced along the outer side of the foot, which can significantly affect an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and enjoy a quality life. This type of pain can manifest from various causes, ranging from acute injuries like sprains and fractures to chronic conditions such as arthritis and tendonitis. 

Symptoms of pain from this foot condition can impact mobility and comfort. Lateral foot pain can be a signal of underlying issues that require attention, highlighting the importance of proper diagnosis and treatment. Understanding this condition is the first step towards a tailored approach that addresses the specific causes of pain, facilitating effective relief and recovery for those afflicted.

10 Causes of Lateral Foot Pain

10 Causes of Lateral Foot Pain

Sprained Ankles

Sprained ankles are not only common, but also one of the most frequent injuries encountered daily, with approximately 25,000 people experiencing this condition each day. This type of injury occurs when the ligaments around the ankle are overstretched or torn, often due to twisting or rolling the ankle in an unnatural way.

Twisted Ankle

A twisted ankle involves a sudden, awkward movement that forces the ankle joint out of its normal position, leading to ligament damage.

Stress Fracture

Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone that develop from repetitive tension toward or overuse, particularly in athletes or individuals with increased physical activity.

Peroneal Tendonitis

Peroneal tendonitis is the inflammation of the peroneal tendons on the outside of the foot, typically resulting from overuse or repetitive activity that strains the tendons.

Cuboid Syndrome

Cuboid syndrome is the disruption or dislocation of the cuboid bone in the foot, often associated with foot ligament injury or strain on the tendons.

Arthritis

Common types of Arthritis in the foot, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, involve the inflammation of the foot joints, leading to arthritis foot pain and stiffness.

Tarsal Coalition

Tarsal coalition is a congenital condition where two or more bones in the foot are abnormally connected, limiting movement and causing pain.

Bunionettes (Tailor’s Bunions)

Bunionettes, or Tailor’s bunions, occur when a bony bump forms at the base of the little toe, leading to severe foot pain and discomfort on the foot’s outer edge.

Calluses and Corns

Calluses and corns are thickened skin layers that form due to repeated pressure or friction, potentially causing pain when they develop on the foot’s lateral side.

Damaged Nerves

Damaged nerves, as seen in conditions like peripheral neuropathy, lead to pain, tingling, or numbness in the foot, including its lateral aspects.

Diagnosing Lateral Foot Pain 

Accurate Diagnosis of lateral foot pain is essential for effective treatment. 

Physical Examination

A detailed examination helps identify the affected area and determine the nature of the pain. Healthcare professional assesses the foot’s condition, inquires about the patient’s medical history, and discusses the symptoms experienced

Diagnostic Tests:

  • X-ray: Essential for detecting bone fractures, dislocations, or abnormalities.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging provides detailed images of the foot’s soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons, useful for diagnosing soft tissue injuries or conditions.

Symptoms of Lateral Foot Pain

Recognizing the symptoms of lateral foot pain is key to seeking timely medical advice and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain Outside the Ankle: Sharp or dull pain on the foot’s outer side.
  • Struggling to Stand or Walk: Difficulty in bearing weight on the affected foot.
  • Instability in One or Both Feet: A sensation of the feet giving way during movement.
  • Prone to Ankle Sprains: A history of frequent ankle sprains may indicate underlying issues contributing to lateral foot pain.
  • Swelling and Tenderness in Foot: Visible swelling and sensitivity to touch on the lateral side of the foot.

Treatment Option For Lateral Foot Pain 

Treatment Option For Lateral Foot Pain 

Effective treatment for lateral foot pain varies depending on the underlying cause. Common treatment options include:

RICE Method

The RICE Method, an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, serves as the cornerstone of initial injury management. This four-pronged approach aims to minimize swelling and pain.

  • Rest is important to prevent further strain and allow the healing process to begin.
  • Ice applied in 20-minute intervals can significantly reduce inflammation and numb the pain.
  • Compression, using bandages, helps stabilize the area and decrease swelling.
  • Elevation of the foot above heart level further assists in reducing swelling by improving circulation.

Painkillers and Anti – inflammatories

Anti-inflammatory medications play a dual role in managing lateral foot pain by minimizing discomfort and reducing inflammation at the injury site. These should be used as directed to avoid potential side effects and with a healthcare provider’s guidance for those with pre-existing conditions.

Wearing a Support for The Ankle

Ankle supports, such as braces or custom foot orthotics, offer crucial stability to the injured foot, helping to distribute weight more evenly and preventing injury aggravation. Orthotics are especially beneficial for individuals with structural foot issues or those who require additional support during the recovery phase.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone of rehabilitation, focusing on tailored exercises and techniques to strengthen the muscles around the foot and ankle, improve flexibility, and support recovery. A physical therapist can also provide valuable education on proper foot mechanics and preventive strategies to avoid future injuries.

Surgery (In Severe Cases)

Surgery may be considered for severe cases where conservative treatments have not provided relief or in the presence of complex injuries. Surgical interventions aim to repair or reconstruct the damaged structures within the foot. Post-surgery, a comprehensive rehabilitation program is essential to restore function and prevent recurrences.

Tips to Prevent Lateral Foot Pain 

Preventing lateral foot pain involves lifestyle and activity adjustments. Key tips include:

Lifestyle and Exercise Modification

Incorporating low-impact exercises into your routine is key to reducing stress on your feet. Activities such as swimming, cycling, and walking offer excellent cardiovascular benefits without placing undue strain on the foot’s lateral side. Additionally, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid activities that cause foot discomfort or pain. Alternating your workout types can also prevent overuse injuries by ensuring no single part of the foot is constantly under pressure.

Stretching Regularly

Flexibility exercises play a vital role in preventing foot injuries. Daily stretching can improve the flexibility of the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles, making them more resilient to the stresses of physical activity. Consistent stretching not only helps in preventing lateral foot pain but also enhances overall foot health.

Avoid Overuse Activities

Repetitive stress on the foot, especially activities that place excessive pressure on the lateral side, can lead to repetitive overuse injuries. It’s essential to recognize the signs of overuse, such as persistent pain or discomfort in the foot, and take immediate steps to reduce the activity level. Implementing rest days into your exercise regimen allows your body to recover and repair. 

How Driven Golf & Physical Therapy Can Help You 

Driven Golf Performance & Physical Therapy specializes in diagnosing and treating lateral foot pain, offering personalized care plans to meet each patient’s unique needs. Our team of health professionals utilizes a holistic approach, combining orthopedic physical therapy, state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, and customized treatment protocols to reduce pain and improve function. 

Whether you’re dealing with an acute injury or chronic pain, our goal is to help you return to your favorite activities pain-free. By focusing on the healing process and prevention, we ensure that you receive the most effective and comprehensive care for your lateral foot pain.

Conclusion

Lateral foot pain can significantly impact your quality of life, but understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is the first step toward recovery. From sprained ankles to damaged nerves, the causes are varied, yet diagnosing and addressing them effectively can lead to significant improvements. 

Remember, prevention is key; adopting lifestyle changes and seeking medical professional advice at the first sign of pain can make a big difference. 

FAQs

How do you stop lateral foot pain?

Stopping lateral foot pain involves resting the affected area, applying ice to reduce swelling, using compression wraps for support, and elevating the foot. For long-term management, physical therapy and wearing appropriate footwear are crucial.

Is heat or ice better for lateral foot pain?

Initially, an ice pack is recommended to reduce swelling and alleviate pain for 15-20 minutes after injury. After this period, heat can be applied to relax muscles and improve blood flow for healing.

How do I know if my foot pain is serious?

Foot pain is considered serious if it persists despite rest and home treatments. If it is also accompanied by severe swelling, redness, or an inability to bear weight. In such cases, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause.

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AUTHOR

Dr. Joe Terrill

Driven Golf Performance & Sports Physical Therapy

We Help Athletes, Sports Enthusiasts, And Other Active People Stay Fit And Healthy So They Can Keep Doing The Things They Love - And Do It Better.
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