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Foot pain

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Foot pain is common, and there are many different causes. If you have had some sort of trauma, like kicking something hard or dropping something on your foot, there may be the possibility of a broken bone.

If you have not had any trauma, there are many different causes: skin problems like blisters and ulcers, joint problems like arthritis or gout, or muscle and tendon problems like Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis.

If you have severe pain or pain not subsiding with simple pain relief, you may need to seek advice from your doctor.

Do I need an X-ray?

If you have had a traumatic injury and have severe pain, you may require an X-ray. Symptoms that suggest a fracture are if you are unable to stand on the injured foot, if the foot appears to be at a different angle than normal, and if there's significant bruising and swelling around the area.

Many simple causes of foot pain don’t require anything other than some self-treatment at home. Tight or badly fitting footwear and doing too much of one repetitive exercise can be common causes of foot pain.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Resting the foot, raising it, and taking some simple pain relief, such as acetaminophen, is a good place to start. If there has been an injury, an ice pack or bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel may provide some added relief.

Your pharmacist is an expert and can recommend further treatments such as insoles, different painkillers, or treatments for many common skin, nail, and foot conditions.

When should I see my doctor?

Most causes of foot pain will improve with some self-treatment. If you still have pain that is not improving after two weeks, then you should book a routine appointment with your doctor to discuss it.

You should seek more urgent medical attention if you have severe pain. If you are concerned, you have suffered a fracture or a nasty foot injury, you will likely require an X-ray.

If you have severe symptoms such as numbness, weakness, fevers, or a break to the skin and have other medical conditions such as diabetes, you should seek urgent medical advice from your doctor.

What will my doctor do?

The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, relevant family medical history, and medications you are currently taking. They will examine your feet, check your temperature, and potentially do other tests such as blood tests or X-rays.

If you go to the hospital, a doctor or nurse will examine you, and if there is a concern for a fracture, you will have an X-ray and various other tests. You will be advised of the best next step if a fracture is confirmed.

Other causes of foot pain, like ulcers, bunions, cuts, and gout, may require specific tests and treatments.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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