Dr. Yuko Miyazaki is always happy to provide professional foot care to help you overcome any pain or impaired function you are experiencing. There are times, though, when you can use home treatment for foot issues. In some cases, this might be a matter of providing first aid until you can come in for treatment at our Berkeley, CA office. In other instances, you may be able to completely address the problem on your own.
Whether you are providing your own home treatment for a foot or ankle problem or you need to come in and see Dr. Miyazaki, the important thing to keep in mind is that foot pain is not something to ignore. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something needs to be done.
Home Treatment for Injuries
Lower limb injuries are quite common. There are several reasons why this is the case. In part, you use your feet and ankles when participating in physical activities. Running and sports are great ways to stay in shape, but they also come with a certain degree of injury risk. Even if you are just walking around during normal, daily activities, you still place a tremendous amount of force on your feet. Every step you take puts at least one-and-a-half times your bodyweight on the landing foot. These forces can add up over time and cause problems.
The good news about sports foot and ankle injuries is that many are treated without the need of surgery. In some cases, you can use conservative care measures in the comfort of your own home to find relief.
Given how often we use them, and the nature of their physical structure, ankle injuries are common for athletes and nonathletes alike. In the case of an ankle sprain—the most frequent source of all ankle pain—the foot twists and ligaments are extended beyond their normal range. This definitely happens during athletic events, but also if you simply misjudge a step or curb while walking during your daily activities.
When an ankle injury happens, it is important to provide prompt first aid. The best practice is to use RICE treatment, which means:
- Rest – Do not put any weight on the injured ankle for 24 to 48 hours. If the sprain is severe, you may need to use crutches to keep weight off of it. This is instrumental in not only giving your body an opportunity to initiate natural healing processes, but it also reduces the likelihood you sustain further damage.
- Ice – Placing ice, a cold pack, or even frozen vegetables on the injured ankle right away will reduce pain and swelling. During the first 2-3 days, ice your ankle once per hour for 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Compression – You can also reduce swelling by wrapping the injured ankle with a compression sleeve or elastic bandage. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly, though. If you start experiencing numbness below the wrap, loosen it a little bit.
- Elevation – When you ice your ankle, or any time you are sitting or lying down, prop it up on pillows. Keeping the injured foot raised above the level of your heart will minimize bruising and swelling.
Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)
Plantar fasciitis is the most common source of heel pain. This particular condition is caused when the plantar fascia—a fibrous band of tissue running along the bottom of your foot—becomes strained from excessive use. The strain on the fascia causes tiny tears, which the body mends during times of rest. When you take the first step following an extended time of inactivity (especially a full night’s sleep), those tears are ripped back open. Sharp, intense heel pain is the primary symptom of this condition.
With regards to home treatment, you should start by taking it easy and icing your affected heel periodically throughout the day for 15-20 minutes at a time. The rest will give your body an opportunity to more completely heal the damaged tissue. Ice controls swelling and relieves pain. Additionally, you may want to try arch supports, stretching exercises, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) you can buy over-the-counter.
Home Treatment for Skin and Nail Issues
Injuries are not the only lower limb problems you can potentially address at home. There are also skin and toenail issues that can benefit from home care.
This is a common fungal infection that typically starts between the toes and then spreads across the foot. The main symptoms are itching—especially when affected feet are exposed to air—and redness.
For mild-to-moderate cases, using an over-the-counter antifungal spray or powder works very well in eliminating the offensive fungus. If you are using one of these products, be sure to follow the listed instructions carefully. Often, the symptoms will go away before the infection is completely cleared up. If you stop using the antifungal product too soon, symptoms will start again in time.
Excessive dryness becomes a problem when it causes skin on your foot to harden and crack. Fissures develop because the dry skin doesn’t have its normal elasticity. This can certainly be painful, but it also increases the risk of potential infection.
If your skin has become dry, you can improve the situation from the comfort of your own home with the following steps:
- Fill a basin large enough to fit both of your feet comfortably with warm (not “hot”) water. If your basin is too heavy to move once it’s full, you can place the basin in the proper location first and then use a pitcher to fill it.
- Once the basin is full, add one cup of Epsom salts. Mix the salts into the water with either your hand or a large spoon until they are dissolved.
- After the salts are added, mix in one tablespoon of baking soda (per quart of water). The baking soda will help relieve dry skin (and it can also eliminate foot odor).
- If you would like a relaxing, pleasant aroma, simply add herbs or essential oils. Chamomile, lemon oil, peppermint, and spearmint leaves are all great options.
- Soak your feet for 20 minutes, or until the water becomes cold. Then gently pat your feet dry and liberally apply an oil-based moisturizing lotion or cream. These kinds of products are best applied when skin is a bit damp (not “wet”), since it traps in moisture.
In addition to soaking your feet, you may wish to consider applying a moisturizer before going to bed and then wearing thick socks to trap in the moisture during the night.
Bad ingrown toenails can easily become infected, so they should be treated at the earliest possible opportunity. While you wait to see Dr. Miyazaki, use the following home treatment plan:
- Soak your feet in warm water daily for 15-minutes at a time to soften the skin around the ingrown toenail (and also relieve swelling, pain, and help drain any fluid). You might want to add a small amount of Epsom salt to the warm water for additional benefit.
- To keep the affected toenail from cutting into your skin, gently lift the ingrown edge and place a small bit of clean, waxed dental floss under the corner of the nail. This forces the nail to grow over the edge of the skin like it is supposed to. Repeat this every day until the nail has grown out and you can trim it properly.
- Cut your toenail straight across (instead of rounding it off). Leave the nail a little longer at the corners so the sharp ends won’t cut into your skin.
- Wear roomy shoes for comfort and keep your feet clean and dry to reduce infection risk.
- You can also take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) to help ease swelling and pain. Make sure, however, not to give aspirin to anyone younger than 20.
Professional Medical Care and Advice
If you are unable to resolve the problem on your own, or you would like additional information about home treatments, simply contact us and our staff will be happy to answer any questions or schedule an appointment for you. Call our Berkeley, CA office today at (510) 647-3744.