What To Do If You Have Foot And Shoulder Pain: Advice From An Orthopedic Doctor


As an orthopedic doctor specializing in sports medicine, I’ve seen my fair share of patients with foot and shoulder pain. The roles these joints play in activities such as golf, bowling, tennis or volleyball make them common sites for injury. If you are dealing with pain in your foot or shoulder (or suspect you might be prone to such problems), here is a look at what you need to know about these painful conditions, and what measures you can take to reduce the risk of further injury.


Foot and Shoulder Anatomy

First, let’s cover a quick review of foot and shoulder anatomy. The foot is composed of 26 bones. The foot’s primary role is to transfer the body’s weight to the ground, and distribute it throughout the arch. The foot also helps us walk, run, and jump, as well as provide balance when we are standing or moving. The foot has two main muscles, the Gastrocnemius and the Soleus. Pain can occur in these muscles as well as in the tendons that connect them to bone. 

On the other hand, the shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, where the rounded head of the upper arm bone (the humerus) is encased in a rounded socket in the upper part of the shoulder blade. The shoulder joint provides a large range of motion. However, because of this wide range, it is also more prone to injury. Shoulder pain can occur in the joint itself or in the musculature around the joint. The most common types of shoulder pain include rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement and bursitis.


Foot Pain: What You Should Know

Foot pain can be caused by a variety of factors, and the source of the pain can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. Stress on the foot can come from a variety of sources, including impact, poor biomechanics, or excessive pronation. Painful conditions in the foot are often caused by misalignment and overuse of the foot, so it is important to “take care of your feet”. In most cases, foot pain is not caused by a serious medical condition, but rather by poor biomechanics, impact or excessive pronation. Let’s examine each of these causes:

Impact - Excessive wear and tear on the bottom of the foot can occur from high impact activities like running, basketball, soccer, or tennis.

Poor biomechanics - If you have an abnormal stride or foot landing pattern, you may be putting more impact than your foot can handle.

Excessive pronation (overpronation) - This is when the foot rolls inward excessively and can cause misalignment of the bones in your foot, causing irritation and pain.


Shoulder Pain: What You Need to Know

Again, as with foot pain, shoulder pain can have a variety of causes. The most common types of shoulder pain include rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement and bursitis. Rotator cuff tendonitis is caused by overuse or injury to the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles and tendons help to stabilize the shoulder joint. However, overuse or injury to these muscles and tendons can lead to pain. Something else that can cause shoulder pain is impingement. This occurs when the tendons, muscles or nerves are compressed under the edge of the acromion – a bony process of the scapula (shoulder blade) that protrudes over the joint.

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Strategies For Foot And Shoulder Pain Prevention

As with most health issues, the best way to deal with foot or shoulder pain is to prevent it. Here are some tips for prevention:

Be careful with your biomechanics. If you have a foot or knee that tends to “roll in” (overpronate), or a foot that tends to “roll out” (underpronate or supinate), you can wear a shoe insert that helps to compensate for these tendencies.

Warm up and cool down. When you are increasing your activity level, you should also increase your foot and leg stretching.

Watch your footwear. When you are playing sports or walking, be sure you are wearing proper footwear.

Make sure your equipment is in good repair. If you are using a tennis racquet or a golf club, examine the condition of the equipment and replace it as needed.


Orthopedic Doctor Consultation

As with many aspects of our health, it is important to be aware of leg and foot pain symptoms. Although some pain is normal, it is important to seek attention if you have unusual pain. If you have foot or leg pain, it is important to rule out a serious medical condition like a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). Prompt attention can help to detect a clot before it breaks loose and travels to the lungs. 

A foot doctor will usually use a combination of symptoms, along with a physical examination, to determine the cause of your symptoms. If you are experiencing foot pain, be sure to give your foot a thorough examination. Walk around barefoot in your home, and pay close attention to how your foot feels when you are standing or walking on different types of surfaces. Be sure to examine the arch of your foot, as well as the heel and ball of the foot. If you have a specific area of pain, you may be able to locate it more precisely by applying pressure with your fingers.



Foot and shoulder pain can be debilitating. Fortunately, it is often preventable through a combination of good biomechanics, warm-up, and good footwear. If you do experience foot or shoulder pain, watch for signs that it may be a more serious problem. If you have concerns, it is best to talk to a medical professional.

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