Joint : Foot Pain Can Lead to Future Joint Problems

As people break out the strappy sandals and flip-flops for the summer season, some begin to prepare for the foot pain that they associate with a more active lifestyle and less supportive footwear.

But Cary Copeland, DPM, director of UC Health Podiatry services and adjunct associate professor in the department of surgery, says that healthy people should experience no foot pain, even when wearing flip-flops or other "non-supportive" shoes.

"Foot pain is not normal, and people often accept it--even children," he says. "People should be able to stand for hours at time--even wearing flip-flops or other flat shoes--without experiencing pain. It's important to realize that if you cannot, there might be an underlying problem."

Copeland says that if a child complains of foot pain, it isn't normal, and that down the road, if not properly addressed, it could lead to hip, knee and lower back pain later in life.

"When you're enjoying the day at Kings Island and notice that your child needs to sit down every half an hour, there may be other issues," he says, adding that undiagnosed tightness in the calf muscle can lead to premature knee and hip pain and affect muscles and joints throughout the lower half of the body and lower back. "There are a number of issues that can be caused by an imbalance in the lower extremities, which people may often ignore and compensate in ways that harm other parts of their body.

"When you go to the ophthalmologist and the different strengths of lenses are put in front of you, it's easy to see that your eyesight improves; however, with lower extremity imbalances, a person is not as aware that there is a problem."

Oftentimes, children are told that they are experiencing "growing pains," which do in fact happen during growth periods. However, Copeland says, this can occur as a result of overcompensation, which could lead to premature arthritis in the knees, hips and lower back and a specialist might be needed.

"It's important to catch these problems earlier in life and remedy them to avoid arthritis or other joint and foot pain--including bunions, corns and hammertoes--later in life," he says. "People often think these issues are genetic but it is the biomechanical imbalances that may be passed from parent to child, and if caught early, common foot pathologies can be avoided.

"Enjoy your flip-flops and sandals, but for the best health and an overall good quality of life, take care of any foot pain you may have."

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