Dr. Sanjay Agarwala, Head-Orthopsedics & Traumatology, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital, Mumbai
Rahul Aged 32 years, a startup entrepreneur had to commute daily from Delhi to Gurgaon. With daily driving of over 5-6 hours, he started facing problems in his right foot from the big toe, arch, heel and ball of the foot. The pain worsened even after resting, and even he had stopped driving but the pain did not vanish. The pain was at its peak if he sat for a long time or got down from the car after a long drive. This agony kept him away from doing daily activities and had to consult doctors. He was initially kept on medications, though painkillers gave him temporary relief but the pain would peep in again soon as he thought of stopping them. On complete investigation, the condition was diagnosed as Driver’s foot, which was creating problems with his plantar fascia. It is a common foot pain condition, most often felt by long driving. Waiting in traffic and continuous driving for 2-3 hours at a stretch not only generates heel pain, but also he started feeling numbness in the right leg with pain propagating to his lower back. If left untreated for a long time this pain aggravates to have problem known as plantar fasciitis along with pain in the heel and the ball of the foot.
What is Driver’s foot?
A very common foot pain condition, usually found among drivers. This condition leads to other complications if the cause of the abnormality is undiagnosed. A person driving for a long time consistently is highly prone to such condition. Usually the pain is felt in the heel of the foot, across the big toe, inflammation in the arch of the foot, and pain in the ball of the big toe where the foot is kept on the accelerator. Traffic can make this pain even worse due to the fact that the foot has to be kept in a same position for a longer period of time.
What are the symptoms?
1. Pain in the ball of the foot- the area of the foot which meets the pedal has the maximum pain. Constant pushing of the pedal can also worsen the pain leading to bursitis (bruising of toe bones.
2. Pain in the heels – Heels being rested on the floor in the complete course of driving, it can be bruised and become painful. The rocking motion of applying brakes and again keeping it on the accelerator pedal enhances the chances of pain.
3. Pain on the top of the feet – tension caused in the foot due to the long holding of the pedal in crucial traffic areas or having to push down on pedals which are too hard can also aggravate pain in the top of the foot. Though this pain vanishes quickly but daily commuters and continuous drivers should not ignore it as complications can be serious if untreated on time.
4. Inflammation in the arch of the foot – usually people with this condition feel a hot sharp sensation in the heel and arch of the foot. The pain elevates soon after getting down after a long drive.
How to treat it?
1. Exercise and stretching – It is first necessary to sketch out the painful areas for precise stretching and exercises, to treat the condition. Stretching is the best treatment as it releases the tension from the heels, arch and the ball socket. Avoid long drives and heavy weight lifting can provide relief quickly. Application of ice to the affected area for 20-30 minutes several times a day along with exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia can be the main stay of the treatment and reduces the chances of recurrence.
2. Medications – In the initial stages, anti-inflammatory or analgesic medicines along with heel pads may be sufficient enough to relieve pain and inflammation.
3. Surgical intervention – surgery may be very rarely required. If the complications worsen over time and is not treated even with medications, the surgeon may suggest for surgical interventions.
How to deal with Driver’s foot?
Immediately stop driving to prevent further cramps if you are driving for a long time.
Improve your blood circulation of the foot by massaging and rubbing them. This relaxes the muscles and the cramps dissipate.
Always wear comfortable shoes that fit the best.
Persistent cramps are also a symptom of Vitamin and electrolyte deficiency in the body. Drink plenty of fluids with potassium and magnesium.