PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder caused by an increase of androgens (male hormones) in the female body.
PCOS can be difficult to diagnose–and even more difficult to treat. The cause of PCOS is varied and somewhat mysterious as well. Researchers believe that genetics and environmental factors play a part. Hallmark symptoms include an increase in body hair, irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, and acne. Individuals with PCOS are also more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant and are more susceptible to diabetes and incontinence.
There’s also a connection between PCOS and foot pain. Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do to proactively care for your feet if you suffer from this frustrating and painful condition:
Risk Factors for Foot Pain and PCOS
While PCOS itself doesn’t cause foot pain, there are several symptoms of this condition that increase your likelihood of developing pain in your feet and heels, most commonly plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is the result of strain, inflammation, or small tears to the arch of your foot and can be caused by overuse or injury.
Because PCOS has an impact on your metabolism and insulin levels, weight gain is extremely common. Unfortunately, weight gain also has a negative impact on the health of your arches. More weight means more impact to the arch, flattening and straining it, and leading to inflammation, small tears, and pain.
With changes in metabolism and difficulty processing insulin, diabetes is another common bedfellow with PCOS. Poor circulation combined with weight gain can cause additional strain and injury to the feet.
In response to injury or imbalance, the body can enter a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation. This can lead to muscle aches and stiffness, and an increased likelihood of injury to the ligaments and muscles in your feet.
Treating and Preventing Foot Pain with PCOS
While dealing with foot pain and the potential for plantar fasciitis might sound like just one more thing to deal with when it comes to PCOS, taking just a few simple precautions can make a world of difference in preventing an additional painful condition from developing. Approximately 90% of cases of heel pain can be successfully resolved at home. Just keep these points in mind:
Enlist Extra Support
Weight loss can be extra difficult while suffering from PCOS. So, enlisting extra support to help your feet absorb impact while walking or exercising can go a long way toward keeping your feet healthy. Rather than investing in heavy, expensive orthotic shoes, use orthotic inserts to turn almost any pair of shoes into supportive, cushioned allies in supporting additional weight.
Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
With the support of your doctor, try incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. Increase your intake of whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and add more essential fatty acids found in foods like salmon and sardines. You may also want to try supplements like fish oil, vitamin A, B, D, and E, which can lower inflammation and potentially improve other symptoms of PCOS as well.
Muscle stiffness caused by inflammation, and extra strain caused by weight gain can be combatted with a deceptively simple solution: stretching. Stretching not only helps strengthen your muscles and ligaments; it also helps improve flexibility and your body’s ability to handle additional strain. Commit to a daily routine of simple stretches for plantar fasciitis to reduce pain and prevent further injury.
Ice, Rest, and Massage
If you do start to notice heel pain, give your feet a rest as much as possible to allow the plantar fascia ligament to heal. You can also ice your heels and feet regularly to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Self massage, or massage with a golf ball (applying steady pressure while you roll a golf ball from heel to toe beneath your foot) can be another effective way to break up adhesions to the fascia and improve blood flow (if you’re diabetic and suffer from neuropathy, consult your doctor first!).
Living with PCOS can be an incredibly difficult experience filled with mystery symptoms and frustrations. Don’t let heel and foot pain be one more thing to deal with. By enlisting additional support in the form of orthotic inserts, stretching, and combatting heel pain with rest, icing, and massage, you can keep your feet healthy and pain-free.