Each April, the American Heart Association celebrates physical activity and encourages all Americans to commit to being more active on a regular basis. An easy way to incorporate more activity into your day? Walking!

Walking has countless benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing – improved circulation, weight loss, strengthened bones and muscles, improved mood, etc. Walking is generally a safe and easy form of exercise, but injuries can still happen. If your walking is interrupted by aches and pains, it’s best to address the problem early on. Here are some common walking injuries – and what to do about them!

Plantar Fasciitis

The most common cause of foot pain, Plantar Fasciitis radiates from the bottom of the heel throughout the foot. The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue in the arch of your foot, which runs from your heel to your toe and absorbs strains and stress placed on the foot. When this supporting tissue becomes irritated or inflamed, Plantar Fasciitis is the result.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis include heel pain, pain with first steps after rest, and pain with extended exercise. Extended pressure on the arch of the foot, tight calf muscles, obesity, and repetitive movement can all be risk factors contributing to Plantar Fasciitis. The good news? Once diagnosed, this painful condition tends to heal quickly. Rest, frequent icing, anti-inflammatories, and light stretching often resolve the issue.

Bunions

A bunion is a painful, bony bump that develops on the inside of your foot at the big toe joint. Bunions begin to form when the big toe joint is forced out of alignment. Narrow shoes, genetics, inflammatory conditions, or neuromuscular conditions are all common culprits. Beyond the visible bump you’ll see on your foot, symptoms include pain and tenderness in the joint area, redness and inflammation, stiffness and restricted motion of the big toe, and difficulty walking.

In most cases, bunions are treated without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments will not remove the bump, but they can reduce pain and keep symptoms from getting worse. Changes in footwear, added padding to shoes, ice, and anti-inflammatories can help alleviate symptoms of bunions. If the pain continues despite these efforts, your orthopedic surgeon may discuss surgery to realign the bone, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, putting the toe back in the right position.

Neuroma

Neuroma is a benign tumor of the nerve, most commonly occurring between the third and fourth toes. Nerve tissues thicken as they pass under the ligament connecting the toe bones to the foot. Irritation, trauma, and excessive pressure on the area are all common causes of neuroma.

There are usually no visible symptoms of neuroma. However, a burning sensation on the ball of the foot, intensified pain with activity and wearing shoes, and numbness in the toes are all physical symptoms. When it comes to treatment, most doctors will look to your shoes. Wider shoes can reduce pressure on the nerve and give it time to heal. Custom shoe inserts may relieve irritation and reduce pain. If symptoms persist, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend an injection to reduce swelling and inflammation.

 Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the two calf muscles to the heel bone. Tendonitis of the Achilles tendon is when the sheath surrounding the tendon becomes swollen and inflamed. Most often, tendonitis is a result of overuse during work or athletic activities. Individuals who have recently added walking into their routines without building up to it may experience Achilles tendonitis.

Symptoms include swelling, a burning pain, and tenderness during or after exercise. Rest is often the best cure for Achilles tendonitis, along with ice, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and exercises such as heel lifts to elevate the heel and take stress off of the Achilles tendon.

Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain happens when the ligaments that support the ankle are forced to stretch beyond their limit. This is a fairly common injury that occurs among people of all ages. Sprains can range from mild to severe, depending on how much damage occurs. Walking on uneven terrain, or falling and twisting the ankle are the most common causes of ankle sprains.

Symptoms of an ankle sprain include swelling of the ankle and foot, bruising, tenderness to the touch, and weakness and instability of the ankle joint. If you have immediate pain and cannot bear weight on your injured ankle, you may have suffered an ankle fracture. It’s important to be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon after an injury so they can determine the severity.

The majority of ankle sprains will heal on their own, along with rest and protection of the ankle. Once swelling is reduced, range of motion, flexibility, and strength exercises will be introduced to help the healing process.

 Hip Bursitis

Bursitis is a condition caused by inflammation of one or both of the fluid-filled cushioning sacs of the hip bone. The hip pain is usually initially sharp and intense, and later becomes more of a dull ache and spreads across a larger area of the hip. The pain may become worse when walking, climbing stairs, or after being seated for a prolonged period.

Bursitis can be caused by an array of pre-existing conditions, or from simply overusing the hip or other injury to the hip. Hip Bursitis is usually treated without surgery. Many people experience relief with lifestyle changes such as activity modification, anti-inflammatories, crutches/walking cane, physical therapy, or steroid injection.