Attention Drivers

Dr Sanjay Agarwala
Sunday, 29 October 2017

Dr Sanjay Agarwala, head of Orthopedics and Traumatology Department of P D Hinduja National Hospital, Mumbai, explains what is the Driver’s Foot 

Thirty-two-year-old Rishabh Goel, a startup entrepreneur, commutes daily from Delhi to Gurgaon. He used to drive for around five to six hours and consequently, his right foot —  big toe, arch, heel and ball of the foot — started paining. Waiting in traffic and driving for 2-3 hours at a stretch not only aggravated Goel’s heel pain, but he also started feeling numbness in the right leg with pain reaching to his lower back. 

The pain worsened after resting; it persisted even after he stopped driving. The pain was at its peak if he sat for a long time or alighted from the car after a long drive. 

On consulting doctors, he was administered painkillers. But they succeeded in giving him temporary relief. On complete investigation, the condition was diagnosed as ‘Driver’s foot’. If left untreated for a long time, this pain aggravates to plant fasciitis — resulting in pain in the heel and the ball of the foot.

What is Driver’s foot?
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. There is inflammation in the arch of the foot and pain in the ball of the big toe where the foot is kept on the accelerator. Waiting in traffic when the foot is kept in same position, can worsen this pain.

What are the symptoms?
Pain in the ball of the foot: The area of the foot which meets the pedal suffers from maximum pain. Constant pushing of the pedal can also worsen the pain leading to bursitis (bruising of toe bones).

Pain in the heels: Heels can be bruised and become painful because they rest on the floor while driving. The rocking motion of applying brakes and again resting it on the accelerator pedal increases the chances of pain.

Pain on the top of the feet: Tension caused in the foot because of the long hold on the pedal during traffic; 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, daily commuters should not ignore it, as complications can be serious if untreated on time.

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?
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. 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. It reduces the chances of recurrence.

Medication: In the initial stages, anti-inflammatory or analgesic medicines along with heel pads may be sufficient to relieve pain and inflammation.

Surgical intervention: Surgery may be very rarely required. If the complications worsen over time and are not curable even with medications, the surgeon may suggest for surgical intervention.

How to deal with driver’s foot?
-     Immediately stop driving to prevent further cramps. 
-     Improve your blood circulation of the foot by massaging and rubbing them. This relaxes the muscles and the cramps dissipate. 
-     Always wear comfortable shoes.
-     Persistent cramps are also a symptom of Vitamin and electrolyte deficiency in the body.
-     Drink plenty of fluids with potassium and magnesium.

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