Monday, October 10, 2011

Ask Us Anything: Why Does My Foot Feel Warm?

"For the past few days, I've been experiencing a sort of burning in my foot, almost as if I'm sitting next to a heater. It isn't painful, just warm. The warmth occurs out of the blue and only lasts for a few seconds. Should I be worried?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Generally speaking, the feeling of warmth or burning in a pinpoint location of the body is considered a sign of inflammation. The big question is: what is causing the inflammation?

Without any specific trauma to the area, sources of inflammation can include Arthritic flare up, irritation from poor fitting foot wear, tendonitis, bursitis (inflammation of the bursa), athlete's foot (an infection of the feet caused by fungus)...the list can go on and on.

Try to write down the things that you do right before the inflammation occurs. This may help to track down the source.

If the inflammation continues, seek an evaluation from your family physician and obtain a referral for Physical Therapy to help you determine if the cause of the inflammation is musculoskelatal in nature.

In the short term, use the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) to soothe the inflammation.

– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Nurse Practitioner Lana Pasek Adds:

This may be a manifestation of a lower extremity peripheral nerve syndrome.

There are many ways this can manifest as a symptom because there are many nerve roots emerging from the spinal column to the legs.

The most common problem with the nerve is compression. It may be due to positioning, such as when legs are crossed and there begins a tingling feeling, and then numbness along the lateral shin and bottom of the foot. This is compression on the peroneal nerve.

As compression grows more consistent and chronic, the symptoms are persistent, and pain and weakness develop. This kind of weakness needs the evaluation of a neurosurgeon or neurologist right away to prevent further nerve damage.

If the burning feeling intensifies into pain and/or develops into numbness, you may also have peripheral vascular disease (PVD) of the arteries in the leg and/or foot. Does the feeling/pain develop when the legs are elevated? Is there a change in color of the foot? Again, is there any weakness involved or pain with walking?

The risk factors for PVD are high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, smoking, advanced age, and a sedentary lifestyle.

PVD is a blocked artery and how much and where the blockage is best determined with an evaluation by a vascular surgeon.

Please start with your primary care doctor who can start with some testing and make recommendations for further consultation with a specialist.

— Lana M. Pasek, EdM, MSN, RN, APRN-BC

About our Experts

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

Lana Pasek is a Nurse Practitioner for Vascular and Stroke Services at Sisters of Charity Hospital and has worked in Vascular services for 9 years. She has master's degrees in Education and in Nursing. Lana is a licensed Registered Nurse and is nationally board certified as a Nurse Practitioner in Adult Health.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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