What’s the difference between…

Have you ever had that feeling where something in your body feels off, but you can’t place exactly what it is? Perhaps you are feeling symptoms that come and go at a moment’s notice, leaving you left puzzled. Maybe you are experiencing pains that you have felt in the past, but can’t place why they would be happening yet again. Perhaps you are having numerous symptoms, but online searches are yielding confusing or even scary results.

Never fear, you are not alone. Many of my New York patients have been in similar situations. While you should never depend on self diagnosis alone, the more you know about potential foot and ankle issues the better. Below are a few commonly confused conditions to keep in mind.

Bunions vs. calluses

Both bunions and calluses involve protruding mounds that develop on feet. Calluses are often the result of a combination of friction and pressure, which can occur when you wear poorly fitting shoes or when you are often on your feet. Calluses usually don’t come with pain, but instead are the result of your skin thickening up to prevent damage. Sometimes surgery is recommended to remove a callous, but often hygiene, including filing and moisturizing, coupled with better fitting footwear can help them disappear.

On the other hand, bunions develop due to an injury, arthritis, or a neuromuscular disease, and they occur in the joint of the big toe. Bunions are incredibly painful and can cause a big toe to become stiff and turn inward. There are some at-home strategies for combating bunions, but the condition can sometimes become severe enough that surgery is needed. In this case, patients require about three months of recovery, including physical therapy and supportive shoes and crutches.

Tear vs. sore muscles

All ankle injuries can bring some degree of pain, but if yours is sudden and severe, it is likely more advanced. Sore muscles can occur if the body is not used to certain levels of movement and exercise or if extra strain is placed on muscle groups that are not used to it. If you find that you are experiencing stiffness and aching when walking, particularly after overexerting yourself, you might be dealing with some sore muscles. Often, extended rest and adding ice or heat to the injured area can provide some relief.

Symptoms of a torn or ruptured tendon are similar, but much more extreme. If you have torn your Achilles tendon, for example, you might find that it is impossible to walk without intense pain or without having support. Patients will also see swelling near the heel and find it challenging to bend their foot. This injury can sometimes occur gradually, but most often includes a traumatic injury accompanied by a popping or snapping sound. Often, surgery is the best option for treating a tear.

You certainly don’t want to put off going to a professional, hoping that the problem at hand will somehow miraculously fix itself. If you are experiencing a foot- or ankle-related concern, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.