Fibromyalgia treatment should extend from the top of the head to the tip of the feet, literally. Although the feet are not the most likely site for experiencing fibromyalgia pain, in a recent article published in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy, about half of 202 patients with fibromyalgia have studied 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 facing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, it adds pain that you don’t need. Also, foot pain increases the risk of falling and having an injury or simply being less active than you would like to be.
It is likely that with fibromyalgia you are aware of the pain that other people ignore. “In general, because people with fibromyalgia have greater pain sensitivity and less pain tolerance, they are more sensitive to pain everywhere,” says Dr. Frisch. In fact, experts believe that at least one in four people suffer from foot pain, but many, if not most, simply do not receive treatment.
There are also common sources of foot pain that are not directly related to fibromyalgia, but can be intensified by having this condition. An example is Morton’s neuroma, a benign enlargement of a nerve that causes tingling and excruciating pain between the third and fourth fingers. This unpleasant condition can be treated with cortisone shots 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 bad choices in footwear. 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. Since people with fibromyalgia often feel tired, they may not get enough of the physical activity they need to feel better. However, if they start trying to develop physical activity, they may initially experience some discomfort or even injure their feet, blame fibromyalgia and stop trying to be active. “Usually, for fibromyalgia, the recommendation is walking,” adds Frisch.
If you want to move with fibromyalgia and avoid unnecessary foot pain, try following these steps:
Meet your doctor. Obviously you should see your podiatrist if you feel pain in the feet. But meeting with the podiatrist or doctor when trying to start an exercise regimen can help make better decisions and keep your feet healthy.
Choose the right shoes. “Make sure you have the right shoe for any business you do,” advises Frisch. If you can afford it, it’s worth paying a little more for a quality shoe that will help prevent pain. Look for shoes with a wide toe, a support arch and a sole that offers support and flexibility.
Start gently. Fibromyalgia is a somewhat unpredictable condition, says Frisch. On a good day, you may be tempted to overdo the exercises or wear too high a heel; opt for moderation if you want to avoid pain.
Expect and accept some discomfort. A little annoyance when starting an exercise program is not unusual. But if you feel pain, it’s time to call your doctor.
Switch to low heels for daily use. If you’re in love with heels, keeping your height around an inch is best for your fibromyalgia symptoms, says Frisch. If you really want to show off a higher heel, put your sensitive 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 he cannot address the general picture of fibromyalgia. A medical team approach is still the best for complete fibromyalgia management.