Mysterious foot pain - what could it be?
March 15, 2013 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I have been having a lot of foot pain that has been building for months. They only hurt when I am sitting still. My googling has proved fruitless, do you have any ideas what it could be?

So this foot pain feels sort of like my feet have been left out in the cold for a long time, or like they are on fire or something, just radiating pain constantly for hours. It's about a 2 or 3 on a 1-10 pain scale. Not screamingly severe, but not able to be put out of my mind. At first, months ago, I thought I just had cold feet, and they only really bugged me in the evenings. I got some slippers and they seemed to help at first (or maybe I just convinced myself it was better), but the pain has grown steadily worse over time. Now it is really bad and worrying me.

Some facts:
- both feet hurt equally
- the pain is in the big meaty body of the foot, not the toes nor the heel
- the feet are not actually cold
- it has nothing to do with the skin or toenails - all are intact and no bunions or bumps or anything
- it does NOT hurt when I am walking or standing, only when I am sitting down and not putting weight on them. I use footrests and change the position of my feet regularly, and it does not make the pain any better.
- the pain doesn't really respond to ibuprofen, which is my go-to pain medication choice.
- it is keeping me up at night. I have some ambien that my doctor gave me a couple months ago, but I fear I have grown dependent on it. I try to go to bed early, then lie there for 60-90 minutes, then I finally give up and take an ambien. I need to find some way out of this.
- I am bipolar and on a lot of meds for that, but that regimen has not changed in the past 8-9 years.
- I have a low thyroid and I'm on medication for it. I saw my endocrinologist and told her my feet felt "cold" a lot, and she thought it was strange that I didn't feel cold all over. It was not as severe when I saw her so I didn't make a big deal out of it.

I have a doctor's appointment on Monday with my family practice doctor (PCP), but I thought the hive mind could help me figure out some things to ask him about, or an idea of the proper sort of specialist I should ask for a referral to. Also I just am frustrated and curious what the hell might be wrong with my feet.

Any ideas? I'd be grateful for any clues you could throw my way.
posted by sock puppetron on wheels to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might have a peripheral neuropathy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:03 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was thinking the same thing as the Pink Superhero.
posted by goggie at 6:22 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could also be restless leg syndrome. Mine presented only in my feet, which felt like they were cold-burning when I was trying to sleep or relax. What eventually helped me after years of trying things was magnesium supplements (magnesium glycinate, but mag citrate and chloride are also well absorbed). If if helps to know, I am ADHD and have severe anxiety and depression and am on a bunch of meds for those and, anecdotally from my pdoc, psych meds can sometimes encourage RLS. After I started the magnesium the feeling went away within days. I couldn't figure out why I was sleeping so well until I realized my feet weren't burning.
posted by monopas at 6:38 PM on March 15, 2013

Thirding peripheral neuropathy.
posted by michellenoel at 7:10 PM on March 15, 2013

Are you taking Topamax? If so I highly suspect that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:44 PM on March 15, 2013

Peripheral neuropathy is likely. When you are sitting, your spinal cord and sciatic nerves are slightly more stretched than when you are standing or moving about. A physical therapist is the personal to see. Amongst other things you might be given "nerve flossing" exercises to let the nerves move around in their respective channels. This is a simplistic explanation. But get it checked out. Also, next time you see your doctor, get screened for diabetes.
posted by flutable at 8:01 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also get screened for B-12 deficiency- even borderline low numbers can cause foot pain and neuropathy symptoms. (My similar but not identical symptoms disappeared after 3 weeks of supplementation.)
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:36 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't help with figuring it out, but as someone with two years of seemingly undiagnosable pain in one foot, just want to suggest carefully writing, on paper, everything about this pain and its chronology, making distinctions as clear as you can for yourself, before you go in (and bring it in).

Confusion around this can muck things up, because imaging or nerve conduction tests can't always help. And sometimes it's hard to remember or articulate things in a diagnostic interview, which is (obviously) framed by the doc, and can be kind of emotional (so even more confusing) if you're desperate.The McGill Pain Questionnaire can help you find precise words. Even, draw a picture of your foot and indicate where the pain/s is/are. Also, clarify for yourself which pains bother you the most & which are more incidental.

(And when your doc pushes your feet around, take time with your responses if you're not sure.) Hope you get it sorted out.

(Not saying you haven't been clear here - I just know for myself, logic and words have gone out the window under pressure.)
posted by nelljie at 11:01 AM on March 16, 2013

My entire medical knowledge of this is limited to being the person who asks the question on one side of a flash card while trying to get the wife through her first year exams. So, Not Your Doctor; medical advice on the internet is useless.


Peripheral neuropathy is a pretty useless diagnosis. In fact, Peripheral neuropathy is not a diagnosis, it's a symptom. Essentially, you're just being told you have a nerve based pain in your feet. It's like asking why you're got a pain in your leg and being told you're suffering from "leggicus painicus". Even if the pain is a nerve based pain, it could caused by a tonne of things.

Because you're suffering resting pain, and you've got a thyroid problem, I'm going to guess that this is an issue with blood flow to your feet. (Are you overweight? This is more likely if you're overweight) Your doctor will probably prescribe lifestyle changes. Eat more healthily, and do some more exercise. Get a test for diabetes. Here's a link to a web page describing Peripheral Vascular Disease. That's scary, huh. Don't worry though. I'm not your doctor & I'm likely wrong. I shouldn't be worrying you on the internet.

If you want a weird diagnosis, then Vasospasticity causing chilblain like symptoms can be caused by emotional stress.
posted by zoo at 1:46 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

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