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Pain in the Balls of Your Feet? It Could Be Bursitis

Your feet are complicated structures that require many moving parts to work together for normal standing and moving. When something goes wrong, minor problems can have a major impact on normal standing and walking. Foot problems are so common that up to 44% of adults may experience foot pain at any given time. 

Pain in the balls of your feet that becomes more intense with walking or standing may be caused by bursitis. Bursitis occurs as a result of an inflamed bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that protects your joints from friction. When the condition affects a bursa in your foot, it can cause pain when walking and make it difficult to move your feet.

Distinguishing between bursitis and other types of foot pain is important to receiving the right treatment. The team of expert podiatrists at Ankle & Foot Associates at 16 locations across Georgia and South Carolina provide professional diagnosis and care for adults and children suffering from bursitis and all types of foot and ankle pain. They have the expertise necessary to determine the source of your symptoms and design an individualized treatment plan to improve your condition. 

Find out more about the way bursitis affects the balls of your feet and how you can get relief.

How bursitis affects your foot

The bursae in your feet help cushion your foot’s joints, reduce friction, and decrease wear-and-tear between moving structures. When healthy, a bursa helps to make joint movement smooth and painless. 

Bursitis that occurs in the balls of your feet usually results from irritation of the bursae at the metatarsophalangeal joints. These joints connect your toe bones to your foot bones. The balls of your feet overlay the metatarsophalangeal joints. 

Causes of bursitis

Bursitis results when a bursa becomes inflamed. Inflammation can occur from direct pressure from high heels or tight shoes or repetitive motions such as running, jumping, or exercising without proper warm-up or preparation. Conditions including gout and arthritis, which lead to joint inflammation, also increase your risk of bursitis. 

Sports injuries or trauma to the foot caused by a sprain or fall can cause bursitis. The condition can also occur with aging as your feet lose elasticity and protective fat deposits weaken.

You may also have a higher risk of bursitis if you have underlying foot conditions. Structural foot issues like a bunion or hammertoe can throw off your foot’s natural balance and pressure, making the balls of your feet susceptible to bursitis because of the extra load they have to bear. 

Symptoms of bursitis

Bursitis on the balls of your feet can make movement painful. It can be difficult to identify this condition from other foot ailments without a professional podiatric examination. Getting the proper diagnosis allows you to get treatment as early as possible before more serious damage occurs.

Here are some signs that you may be dealing with bursitis:

  • Pain when walking or running
  • Pain when walking on tip-toe
  • Increased pain in the morning when the joint hasn’t moved for a period of time
  • Localized swelling, redness, and pain on the balls of your feet
  • Pain when touching the balls of your feet

Treating bursitis

Most cases of foot bursitis improve over time with conservative treatment. Your podiatrist determines the steps you should take to improve your specific condition. 

The most common recommendations for treating bursitis include the following advice:

Rest and elevate the affected foot.

Avoid activities that cause pain in the affected foot. Remain seated with your foot elevated as much as possible.

Ice your foot.

Ice reduces inflammation and pain. Use ice for 20-minute periods a few times daily on the affected area. 

Treat pain with medication.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, can reduce inflammation and pain caused by bursitis.

Compress the affected foot.

Compressing the affected foot with elastic bandages can reduce swelling. Be careful to avoid restricting blood flow with tight compression.

Wear appropriate footwear.

A well-fitting shoe provides appropriate support and prevents the soles of your feet from bearing too much weight in areas where bursitis can develop.

Use orthotics.

As recommended, custom or over-the-counter foot orthotics or pads can help properly align your foot and prevent unnatural pressure from irritating the bursae under your feet.

If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative treatment, your podiatrist may recommend other options. Depending on the extent of your bursitis, you may require a corticosteroid injection or foot surgery to correct the condition. 

Find out more about bursitis and whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by this condition. To schedule an appointment with Ankle & Foot Associates, contact one of our 16 convenient locations across Georgia and South Carolina.

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