Fibromyalgia Foot Pain

Table of contents

Fibromyalgia Foot Pain

For those navigating the challenges of fibromyalgia, foot pain can feel like an ever-present obstacle in daily life, a constant companion that refuses to fade away.

In this article, we're going to walk you through everything you need to know about fibromyalgia foot pain. From what causes it to how you can find relief, we've got you covered.

What causes fibromyalgia foot pain?

It's likely that central sensitization is part of the cause1. But there may be other contributing factors that can be understood and worked on too, and we'll get to those as we go on.

Firstly, what's central sensitization? Picture your nervous system as an orchestra where every nerve has a part to play in perfect harmony. In fibromyalgia, central sensitization acts like a conductor who's lost control, resulting in a chaotic overreaction from the musicians.

Central sensitization means your nervous system has become hypersensitive, and is producing pain in response to many stimuli, even gentle touch, turning a soft caress into a distressing symphony. In the case of foot pain, this heightened sensitivity translates into an intense reaction to stimuli that would typically go unnoticed. The nerves in your feet become overly reactive, interpreting normal activities such as walking, standing, or wearing certain footwear as painful experiences.

Fibromyalgia foot pain symptoms

Symptoms of foot pain associated with fibromyalgia often manifest as a burning sensation in various areas of the feet, including the soles, tops, and sides. This is particularly noticeable upon waking, almost as if you've been on your feet for hours.

Other conditions that can contribute to your foot pain

Although the pain of fibromyalgia stems from central sensitization (rather than physical or structural issues), it can exacerbate other conditions. So, what else could it be?

Foot pain can present as pain in the heels, Achilles tendon, arches, or toes and there are a few different potential diagnoses:

  • Plantar fasciitis: This condition involves inflammation or stretching of the fascia, a group of connective tissues on the underside of the foot.
  • Achilles tendonitis: Tenderness in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf to the heel bone, calf and heel is often the result of suddenly increasing the distance you walk or run, rather than building up to it gradually.
  • Lupus: An autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue, joint pain, rash and fever.
  • Morton's neuroma: A sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot, maybe with stinging, burning or numbness in some toes could be the result of a thickening in the nerve that goes to your toes.
  • Raynaud’s syndrome: This circulatory problem usually causes fingers, toes and other extremities to be cold and white in cooler temperatures. Although this isn't usually painful, it can cause pain, particularly in people who also have fibromyalgia.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A type of arthritis that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints and may result in misshapen toes.

Your biomechanics – the way you walk, your footwear, carrying heavy loads and so on – can also impact your foot pain:

  • Flat feet: Here, the foot arch collapses or lacks sufficient support, either from birth or through gradual development.
  • High arches: These exert excessive pressure on the metatarsal (the ball of the foot), potentially leading to pain and related foot problems.
  • Overpronation: This is a type of gait, or a way of walking, in which the foot and knee rotate inward, causing an imbalance in weight distribution and eventual pain.

It's important to talk with your doctor about any underlying foot conditions that may be causing or increasing your pain, so they can help you find targeted treatments for both conditions.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia foot pain

To diagnose fibromyalgia foot pain, a doctor will probably refer you to a physio or podiatrist, who specialize in foot problems.

A doctor may also perform tests and scans to rule out the other potential causes of your pain (such as arthritis). To do so, they will also ask about your medical history and symptoms. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your pain must have been ongoing for at least three months, be widespread (across the body) and accompanied by some other symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, sleep problems and mood disturbances.

How does fibromyalgia affect walking?

When you're dealing with fibromyalgia foot pain, it can really affect how well you can walk. Recent studies have shown that fibromyalgia can even change how you walk2.

Typically, people with fibromyalgia take shorter steps and walk more slowly than someone who doesn't have this condition. This change in how you walk, which has a lot to do with pain in your feet, can make it much harder for you to move around.

Should you walk a lot with fibromyalgia?

When it comes to exercising with fibromyalgia, it's understandable to feel hesitant, fearing it might worsen your pain. However, research shows that regular, appropriate exercise (such as walking) is actually one of the best treatments to reduce your pain! It promotes blood flow throughout your body, including your feet, which can help alleviate discomfort3.

Walking is also a great way to elevate your heart rate, increase your fitness, and strengthen your muscles. This is important for your overall health, boosting your mood and energy levels, and improving your sleep, mental health and overall wellbeing.

It's very important to start slow and low – don't walk to the point that you make your pain worse or cause a flare-up but start with a distance that you can comfortably do (although it's normal to feel a little sore for an hour or two afterwards, if is intense or lasts for more than a couple of hours you're going too hard). Then, gradually increase this amount.

Ways to keep on walking

The golden rule is to start gently, with a routine that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. Then, increase your distance slowly.

Make it fun too, by walking with the family dog, a friend, or an audiobook. It doesn’t have to be “just a boring walk” either. If you prefer, opt for a sport or an activity that gets you moving.

Remember, It’s okay to use mobility aids if you need to. Aids such as walking sticks or canes can provide support and stability, allowing you to move more comfortably during exercise and daily activities.

Try another low-impact exercise

If foot or ankle pain makes walking too difficult, you can try some alternative exercises with lower impact on your feet and joints.

Swimming and cycling are excellent options that provide cardiovascular benefits without making your feet hurt. Experiment with different activities to find what works best for you and your fibromyalgia symptoms.

Treatment options for fibromyalgia foot pain

We encourage you to consult with your healthcare team before making any changes to your treatment regimen.

Addressing fibromyalgia foot pain often involves a multifaceted approach. This might include medication and lifestyle adjustments such as prioritizing sleep and engaging in regular physical activity.

Finding an appropriate treatment plan for you, or a combination of options, can help to enhance your wellbeing, even if it doesn't entirely eliminate your foot pain.

Retraining your pain

At MoreGoodDays®, we specialize in teaching you how to retrain your pain, aiming to decrease both the intensity, frequency and impact of your pain and other symptoms. Getting a handle on your fibro in general will lead to reduced foot pain, because everything is connected!

Our approach is grounded in the biopsychosocial model of pain, recognizing that pain isn't solely a physical sensation but also influenced by psychological, emotional, and social factors.

Through our comprehensive strategy, you'll learn about pain's nature and how factors like stress, beliefs, and behaviors can shape your perception of it. Practical techniques, based on neuroplasticity principles, are key. Examples include:

  • Exercise and movement: Exercise is proven to lower average pain levels and improve mood, while also positively impacting muscle and joint function. Incorporating even small movements and breaking up periods of sitting can make a meaningful difference.
  • Psychology and stress management: These approaches help you develop coping skills and regulate your nervous system, leading to improved pain management and overall wellbeing.
  • Sleep: Understanding fatigue triggers and pacing activities can help manage energy, while adopting proper sleep hygiene practices promotes restful sleep, contributing to pain relief.

We recognize the importance of personalized support in navigating the complexities of fibromyalgia management. Our coaches and clinicians offer tailored guidance to help individuals implement strategies tailored to their specific circumstances.

Using medicine for short-term relief

Medications are best used as aids to enable other therapies, rather than as standalone solutions for pain relief.

Over-the-counter analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can offer short-term pain relief, and your doctor may recommend other medications as part of your overall pain-management journey.

Using these to support your psychological or movement-based approaches can lead to long-term benefits in reshaping your body and pain over time.

Other remedies & preventatives for foot pain relief

Seeking effective treatment for fibromyalgia foot pain may require some experimentation, but the effort is worthwhile for enhancing your daily comfort. Integrating them with other approaches like exercise can enhance their effectiveness for you.

There are many alternative therapies and home remedies that you can try, such as:

  1. Acupuncture: Explore acupuncture sessions to help reduce discomfort and improve your overall sleep quality, contributing to your overall sense of wellbeing.
  2. Warm foot soak: Soaking your feet in warm water with or without Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) or specialized foot soaks recommended by podiatrists can be very soothing. Alternating between warm and cool water can also help ease muscle pain by boosting circulation in the area.
  3. Supportive shoes: Your podiatrist might recommend custom orthotics and supportive footwear to manage and prevent flare-ups, especially if you also have a structural condition such as plantar fasciitis or overpronation. Wearing supportive shoes indoors is also useful for preventing pain symptoms, particularly if you're sensitive to walking barefoot.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.

  1. Siracusa R, Paola RD, Cuzzocrea S, Impellizzeri D. Fibromyalgia: Pathogenesis, Mechanisms, Diagnosis and Treatment Options Update. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 9;22(8):3891. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33918736/
  2. Carrasco-Vega, E., Ruiz-Muñoz, M., Cuesta-Vargas, A., Romero-Galisteo, R. P., & González-Sánchez, M. (2022). Individuals with fibromyalgia have a different gait pattern and a reduced walk functional capacity: A systematic review with meta-analysis. PeerJ, 10, e12908. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.12908
  3. Arthritis Australia. Exercise and fibromyalgia. Accessed February 7, 2024. https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/managing-arthritis/living-with-arthritis/physical-activity-and-exercise/exercise-and-fibromyalgia/

Fibromyalgia Foot Pain

Table of contents

Fibromyalgia Foot Pain

For those navigating the challenges of fibromyalgia, foot pain can feel like an ever-present obstacle in daily life, a constant companion that refuses to fade away.

In this article, we're going to walk you through everything you need to know about fibromyalgia foot pain. From what causes it to how you can find relief, we've got you covered.

What causes fibromyalgia foot pain?

It's likely that central sensitization is part of the cause1. But there may be other contributing factors that can be understood and worked on too, and we'll get to those as we go on.

Firstly, what's central sensitization? Picture your nervous system as an orchestra where every nerve has a part to play in perfect harmony. In fibromyalgia, central sensitization acts like a conductor who's lost control, resulting in a chaotic overreaction from the musicians.

Central sensitization means your nervous system has become hypersensitive, and is producing pain in response to many stimuli, even gentle touch, turning a soft caress into a distressing symphony. In the case of foot pain, this heightened sensitivity translates into an intense reaction to stimuli that would typically go unnoticed. The nerves in your feet become overly reactive, interpreting normal activities such as walking, standing, or wearing certain footwear as painful experiences.

Fibromyalgia foot pain symptoms

Symptoms of foot pain associated with fibromyalgia often manifest as a burning sensation in various areas of the feet, including the soles, tops, and sides. This is particularly noticeable upon waking, almost as if you've been on your feet for hours.

Other conditions that can contribute to your foot pain

Although the pain of fibromyalgia stems from central sensitization (rather than physical or structural issues), it can exacerbate other conditions. So, what else could it be?

Foot pain can present as pain in the heels, Achilles tendon, arches, or toes and there are a few different potential diagnoses:

  • Plantar fasciitis: This condition involves inflammation or stretching of the fascia, a group of connective tissues on the underside of the foot.
  • Achilles tendonitis: Tenderness in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf to the heel bone, calf and heel is often the result of suddenly increasing the distance you walk or run, rather than building up to it gradually.
  • Lupus: An autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue, joint pain, rash and fever.
  • Morton's neuroma: A sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot, maybe with stinging, burning or numbness in some toes could be the result of a thickening in the nerve that goes to your toes.
  • Raynaud’s syndrome: This circulatory problem usually causes fingers, toes and other extremities to be cold and white in cooler temperatures. Although this isn't usually painful, it can cause pain, particularly in people who also have fibromyalgia.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: A type of arthritis that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints and may result in misshapen toes.

Your biomechanics – the way you walk, your footwear, carrying heavy loads and so on – can also impact your foot pain:

  • Flat feet: Here, the foot arch collapses or lacks sufficient support, either from birth or through gradual development.
  • High arches: These exert excessive pressure on the metatarsal (the ball of the foot), potentially leading to pain and related foot problems.
  • Overpronation: This is a type of gait, or a way of walking, in which the foot and knee rotate inward, causing an imbalance in weight distribution and eventual pain.

It's important to talk with your doctor about any underlying foot conditions that may be causing or increasing your pain, so they can help you find targeted treatments for both conditions.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia foot pain

To diagnose fibromyalgia foot pain, a doctor will probably refer you to a physio or podiatrist, who specialize in foot problems.

A doctor may also perform tests and scans to rule out the other potential causes of your pain (such as arthritis). To do so, they will also ask about your medical history and symptoms. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your pain must have been ongoing for at least three months, be widespread (across the body) and accompanied by some other symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, sleep problems and mood disturbances.

How does fibromyalgia affect walking?

When you're dealing with fibromyalgia foot pain, it can really affect how well you can walk. Recent studies have shown that fibromyalgia can even change how you walk2.

Typically, people with fibromyalgia take shorter steps and walk more slowly than someone who doesn't have this condition. This change in how you walk, which has a lot to do with pain in your feet, can make it much harder for you to move around.

Should you walk a lot with fibromyalgia?

When it comes to exercising with fibromyalgia, it's understandable to feel hesitant, fearing it might worsen your pain. However, research shows that regular, appropriate exercise (such as walking) is actually one of the best treatments to reduce your pain! It promotes blood flow throughout your body, including your feet, which can help alleviate discomfort3.

Walking is also a great way to elevate your heart rate, increase your fitness, and strengthen your muscles. This is important for your overall health, boosting your mood and energy levels, and improving your sleep, mental health and overall wellbeing.

It's very important to start slow and low – don't walk to the point that you make your pain worse or cause a flare-up but start with a distance that you can comfortably do (although it's normal to feel a little sore for an hour or two afterwards, if is intense or lasts for more than a couple of hours you're going too hard). Then, gradually increase this amount.

Ways to keep on walking

The golden rule is to start gently, with a routine that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. Then, increase your distance slowly.

Make it fun too, by walking with the family dog, a friend, or an audiobook. It doesn’t have to be “just a boring walk” either. If you prefer, opt for a sport or an activity that gets you moving.

Remember, It’s okay to use mobility aids if you need to. Aids such as walking sticks or canes can provide support and stability, allowing you to move more comfortably during exercise and daily activities.

Try another low-impact exercise

If foot or ankle pain makes walking too difficult, you can try some alternative exercises with lower impact on your feet and joints.

Swimming and cycling are excellent options that provide cardiovascular benefits without making your feet hurt. Experiment with different activities to find what works best for you and your fibromyalgia symptoms.

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Treatment options for fibromyalgia foot pain

We encourage you to consult with your healthcare team before making any changes to your treatment regimen.

Addressing fibromyalgia foot pain often involves a multifaceted approach. This might include medication and lifestyle adjustments such as prioritizing sleep and engaging in regular physical activity.

Finding an appropriate treatment plan for you, or a combination of options, can help to enhance your wellbeing, even if it doesn't entirely eliminate your foot pain.

Retraining your pain

At MoreGoodDays®, we specialize in teaching you how to retrain your pain, aiming to decrease both the intensity, frequency and impact of your pain and other symptoms. Getting a handle on your fibro in general will lead to reduced foot pain, because everything is connected!

Our approach is grounded in the biopsychosocial model of pain, recognizing that pain isn't solely a physical sensation but also influenced by psychological, emotional, and social factors.

Through our comprehensive strategy, you'll learn about pain's nature and how factors like stress, beliefs, and behaviors can shape your perception of it. Practical techniques, based on neuroplasticity principles, are key. Examples include:

  • Exercise and movement: Exercise is proven to lower average pain levels and improve mood, while also positively impacting muscle and joint function. Incorporating even small movements and breaking up periods of sitting can make a meaningful difference.
  • Psychology and stress management: These approaches help you develop coping skills and regulate your nervous system, leading to improved pain management and overall wellbeing.
  • Sleep: Understanding fatigue triggers and pacing activities can help manage energy, while adopting proper sleep hygiene practices promotes restful sleep, contributing to pain relief.

We recognize the importance of personalized support in navigating the complexities of fibromyalgia management. Our coaches and clinicians offer tailored guidance to help individuals implement strategies tailored to their specific circumstances.

Using medicine for short-term relief

Medications are best used as aids to enable other therapies, rather than as standalone solutions for pain relief.

Over-the-counter analgesics such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can offer short-term pain relief, and your doctor may recommend other medications as part of your overall pain-management journey.

Using these to support your psychological or movement-based approaches can lead to long-term benefits in reshaping your body and pain over time.

Other remedies & preventatives for foot pain relief

Seeking effective treatment for fibromyalgia foot pain may require some experimentation, but the effort is worthwhile for enhancing your daily comfort. Integrating them with other approaches like exercise can enhance their effectiveness for you.

There are many alternative therapies and home remedies that you can try, such as:

  1. Acupuncture: Explore acupuncture sessions to help reduce discomfort and improve your overall sleep quality, contributing to your overall sense of wellbeing.
  2. Warm foot soak: Soaking your feet in warm water with or without Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) or specialized foot soaks recommended by podiatrists can be very soothing. Alternating between warm and cool water can also help ease muscle pain by boosting circulation in the area.
  3. Supportive shoes: Your podiatrist might recommend custom orthotics and supportive footwear to manage and prevent flare-ups, especially if you also have a structural condition such as plantar fasciitis or overpronation. Wearing supportive shoes indoors is also useful for preventing pain symptoms, particularly if you're sensitive to walking barefoot.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.