Pregnancy and the unexpected foot and leg pain.
Are they my feet down there? They don’t resemble how I remember them?
As your belly grows as does the distance to your feet…and suddenly they are a foreign part of the body. We know some of the ‘delightful’ side effects of pregnancy however your feet are generally not front of mind in this category.
I’m sorry to tell you.. but sore, aching and swollen feet are a very common symptom during pregnancy. More commonly then not, this recently distanced body part starts to cause grief and discomfort through your pregnancy and suddenly you realise that you may have taken your poor soles for granted.
Why? Why now when you need them most?
There are many reasons for the increased incidence of foot pain in pregnant women however these are the most common attributes.
- Rapid weight gain. Its ok…we expect this of course. In fact the average weight gain for women during pregnancy is 10-16kgs and your feet will potentially not like this rapid change.
- Increase in blood volume and body fluids. These increases are not only attributing to the weight gain, but are often responsible for lower leg, foot and ankle swelling.
- Changes to your ligament laxity. During pregnancy, and when your body is getting ready for child birth, your body undergoes hormonal changes that affect how much your ligaments can stretch. This increase in laxity can in turn change your foot structure and the mechanical loading within your foot structures. It is not uncommon for women to increase a shoe size due to these changes.
- Footwear changes. “Nothing fits!?” Due to swelling and ligament changes you often need to look for new footwear to carry you through pregnancy. However if not selected carefully, these additions can contribute to your foot pain.
- Changes to activity levels. Weather you are trying to manage your weight gain and increase activity or decreasing your activity due to recent fatigue, both can have influences on your feet. Regular gentle activity is great through pregnancy, as long as you adjust your activity to suit your stage of pregnancy (consulting with your GP along the way).
What is happening down there?
Lower leg, ankle and foot swelling.
Due to the increase in fluid within your body and hormonal changes, swelling (also known as oedema) can often present in the lower limbs. Oedema is usually worst in the later stages of your pregnancy, however some lucky women experience none. Fluid pressure in the lower legs and ankles can also unfortunately increase your risk of varicose and spider veins which can present (and often stay) during pregnancy.
Tips to assist in lower limb swelling:
- Ensure you are having periods of appropriate rest daily. Where possible, place your feet in a raised position to assist in fluid movement back to the heart (for example use a foot stool or prop your feet on up on pillows whist sitting on the couch).
- Avoid long periods of standing and walking.
- Try to incorporate an ankle rotation exercise into your daily routine. Rotate your ankle 5 times clockwise, followed by 5 times anticlockwise. Repeat this exercise 5 times on each foot two – three time a day. These should be performed slowly and controlled.
- Graded compression stockings are advisable for women who are experiencing lower leg oedema. Compression not only assists in reducing leg and ankle swelling but also acts to reduce your risk of developing varicose and spider veins by assisting the fluid back up to the heart. We recommend being assessed by one of our podiatrists prior to purchasing these products to ensure appropriate compression strength and sizing. Reputable brands includes Venosan and Jobst.
- Most importantly, schedule a time each day to have hubby massage your feet (…you’re welcome).
Lower limb muscle cramping
Some women can experience cramping in the legs and feet during their pregnancy. The exact cause of this is unknown however it is thought to be related to weight gain, fluid retention, changes to physical activity and/or metabolic disorders.
- During episodes of cramping many people find a gentle passive stretch helpful in relieving the symptoms. Gently rolling a tennis ball under the foot may also provide relief.
- Both footwear to assist in reducing muscle fatigue and compression stockings to promote better circulation may be of assistance to reduce cramping frequency. Your podiatrist will also be able to assess your walking pattern to ensure appropriate muscle activation and use.
It is easy to fall into the mentality that your footwear just needs to ‘fit’ and create the feeling of ‘cushioning’ for those tired feet. It it important to not however forget the characteristics that help us avoid foot pain (even more important during pregnancy where you are at an increased risk of experiencing these symptoms).
Things to consider:
- Footwear should not be constrictive or cause pinching of the skin as your feet swell.
- Footwear should be well adhered (with strapping or laces) to avoid tripping and instability during walking. Try not to go for the easiest option of a slip on shoe as this can impact on your risk of tripping and foot pain as the foot tries to grip all day onto your shoes.
- Footwear which provides levels of cushioning, stability and comfort are so important as your feet change through pregnancy. Pregnancy places you at an increased risk of foot pathologies such as plantar fasciitis (heel pain) due to the rapid increases in weight and hormonal changes alike. Don’t compromise on good footwear now!
Foot pain (of all sorts)
As I touched on earlier a number of things can play a roll in the increased risk of foot pain in pregnant women. If you are experiencing foot pain I recommend you have a visit with one of our podiatrists to ascertain the contributing factors which may be influencing your pain.
Your podiatrist will perform a full biomechanical assessment looking at your foot function, walking mechanics, ligament laxity and footwear to determine the potential causes of your pain. Our tailored management plans will consider your goals surrounding your pregnancy.
If you are currently experiencing foot pain or would like an assessment to ensure best outcomes during your pregnancy, make an appointment with one of our podiatrists today. If you have any questions relating to your feet during pregnancy or this blog today, please feel free to contact me on the details bellow. We are here to help you stay on your feet!
Pro Feet Podiatry