Foot problems can cause a range of symptoms including pain, swelling and limping.
In many cases, new or flare-up of long-standing foot problems should begin to settle within 6 weeks without the need to see a healthcare professional.
When to seek help
Speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible if:
- there's been significant trauma, for example a fall from height or direct blow to the foot
- you have a significant open wound
- you can't put any weight at all through your foot
What causes foot problems?
Foot problems are fairly common and can be caused by injury or normal age-related changes. It may also be due to a flare-up of an existing problem.
As you get older, normal age-related changes can cause your foot problem to flare-up now and again, often for no reason.
Can this cause problems anywhere else?
You may feel some pains in your toes, ankle, calf, knee and even in your back. This should improve as your foot problem gets better.
Foot problems can also cause limping. If the limp is severe, using a walking stick on the opposite side to your foot problem may help.
How to use a walking stick
Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.
Being physically active can:
- maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none.
- keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
- prevent a recurrence of the problem
- help you aim for a healthy body weight
Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.
Exercises to help with foot problems
Resting or moving?
Within the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms starting you should try to:
- rest your foot, but avoid long spells of not moving at all
- move your foot and toes gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you're awake
After 48 hours:
- try to slowly return to normal activity
- do whatever you normally would and stay at or return to work - this is important and is the best way to get better
- lead with your good leg when going upstairs to reduce the strain on your foot
- lead with your problem leg when going downstairs to reduce the strain on your foot
- use a handrail (if available) when going up and downstairs
Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery.
Speak to your community pharmacist or other healthcare professional about taking medication or other methods of pain relief. It's important to take medication regularly.
More about taking painkillers
It's recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don't need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.
Help and support
If, after following the above advice, your foot problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks a referral to a physiotherapist or podiatrist may be of benefit.
If available in your health board area, the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline can refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.