Why Does the Top of My Foot Hurt?
Pain can arise anywhere in the foot, but a lot of people report that they feel pain in the top area. This can be due to an injury, disease or a number of other reasons which we have outlined below.
Metatarsal Stress Fracture
What Is it?
A stress fracture is caused by overuse of the area and results in a small crack in the bone. Athletes and dancers often suffer with these as they are constantly on their feet. If you have pain in the top of your foot it could be that you have a metatarsal stress fracture. The metatarsal bones are the five long bones that run along the top of the foot.
The pain tends to come on gradually. There is also usually swelling and a tenderness, especially when pressed.
Metatarsal Stress fractures are treated using the RICE method, this stands for rest, ice, compression and elevate. This method is used in nearly all fractures and breaks, especially in the feet, and it ensures that the foot is comfortable and there is no pressure on it which could worsen the injury.
Depending on the severity of the fracture a doctor may advise you to wear a cast to protect and support the foot, or you may wear a foot brace to keep the foot still so the bone can heel.
Eventually, you will start rehabilitation exercises which will help strengthen the foot and increase movement and flexibility.
In very rare cases surgery is required, but usually metatarsal stress fractures can be fixed without it.
What Is It?
Also known as a pinched nerve, nerve entrapment usually occurs at the top of the foot and can be very painful. It is most often caused by pressure in a particular area which usually comes about due to tight shoes which press and pinch the feet.
Pain is the main symptom of nerve entrapment; it is often a shooting variety and can have a burning sensation. There are occasionally other symptoms that come with a pinched nerve; these include a pins and needles sensation in the foot and sometimes a numbness.
Usually, resting the foot can treat the trapped nerve. As repeated activity aggravates it, staying off your feet and applying ice to the area should help alleviate it. You should also change your shoes if they are the culprit. Get measured by a professional so you can get shoes that fit you perfectly and that won’t pinch.
If the pain does not go away then consult your doctor, they may refer you to a foot health expert, known as a podiatrist, who can help the pain, often by supplying orthotics which will supply support to the foot.
What Is It?
This condition is one of the most common causes of top of foot pain and occurs when the extensor tendons, which pull the toes back from the ground, become inflamed.
There are a number of factors that can cause extensor tendonitis, but the most common is ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight rub against the top of the feet, irritating the tendons and causing them to become inflamed. Other causes include calf tightness, which can affect the position of the foot and the way it moves. Also, too high arches can lead to extensor tendonitis as there is extra pressure on the top of the foot. Injury can also be a reason for the condition, especially if something heavy has been dropped onto the foot as this can injure and inflame the tendons.
The pain of this condition is mainly found in the top of the foot because of the placement of the tendons, this is a symptom that can hint that you may have extensor tendonitis. Often the area is swollen and can be very tender to the touch too. If the pain increases when you try to draw your toes upwards then it is very likely that you have extensor tendonitis.
Extensor Tendonitis is, again, best treated using the RICE method. As soon as possible you should rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, as well as compression and keep the foot elevated. Stay off the foot as much as possible and this will allow the tendons to heal themselves.
Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, can help manage the pain and reduce swelling.
Changing footwear is also an effective treatment as it is usually ill-fitting shoes that cause the condition. Getting your feet measured and wearing correct shoes will reduce pressure on the tendons.
If the pain doesn’t get better then it is best to visit a health professional, they may suggest strengthening exercises which will help the muscles and tendons in your foot. They may also suggest using orthotics which will provide support and comfort for the foot.
What Is It?
A ganglion cyst is a swelling that is filled with synovial fluid; a jelly like substance which lubricates joints. They occur near tendons or joints and, though most often found on the wrist, can occur in the feet, especially the top. They can vary in size from a pea to a golf ball.
The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unknown; it is generally believed that some sort of trauma to the area, such as an injury, is the main cause. This makes the synovial fluid leak and form a cyst.
The most obvious symptom of a ganglion cyst is the cyst itself. Sometimes they are so small that they are hard to see but you will often be able to feel them. The cysts aren’t painful in themselves but if they are near a nerve they can press on it, which will cause the pain in the top of your foot that you are feeling.
Another symptom that you may experience with a ganglion cyst is that your movement in that area of your foot is limited. Because the cysts form on joints and tendons, they can stop the area from working properly.
Often times, if the cyst is small and not very painful, a doctor will suggest not undertaking any treatment and leaving the cyst to heal by itself. However, if it is painful or if it gets in the way and effects your movement then treatment will be needed.
The most common form of treatment is to drain the cyst, this is called aspiration. It is a simple process where the area is numbed with local anaesthetic and then the cyst is lanced with a needle. This is usually effective; however, this doesn’t prevent the reoccurrence of a cyst.
Surgery is a more serious option; it involves the cyst being removed under local anaesthetic. The recuperation time is long but there is less likelihood of a recurrence.
One treatment of ganglion cysts that you should avoid is “Bible Therapy”. This is a home treatment where people hit the cyst with a very heavy book in the hope of popping it. Needless to say, this often causes more harm than good and can result in even more injury. Put the book down and leave it to the professionals!