Eight in 10 Americans experience some form of problem with their feet. One in 4 says they’re unable to exercise due to foot pain.
One common cause of foot pain that can cause excruciating pain is an ingrown toenail — a problem that occurs when a sharp edge of the toenail begins to grow inward, cutting into the skin at the side of the toe.
Just like many reading this, I know the pain of an ingrown nail first hand. For many years, I had sought to simply remove the offending section of nail. But that was only a temporary solution and also quite painful.
Although I am not a major fan of most surgical procedures, I opted for podiatric surgical treatment around 10 years ago and it indeed was a permanent fix. I have yet to have any other recurrences and I am very grateful it was an option.
The video below, narrated by a podiatrist, explains how an ingrown toenail typically develops, and how to best address it. While surgery is often the best solution for an ingrown toenail (as it was for me), there are a number of at-home remedies that can be helpful during the early stages.
Needless to say, the sooner you address it, the likelier you’ll be successful in healing the area. As a general rule, if you have a condition that impairs blood circulation to your feet, such as diabetes, or if you have nerve damage in your leg or foot, avoid self-treating and seek help from a podiatrist to avoid complications.
What Causes Ingrown Toenails?
Ingrown toenails are prevalent among those who wear closed-toe shoes for long periods of time. Pressure on the toes and nails from poor-fitting shoes combined with the moisture from sweat is a recipe for toenail trouble.
Perhaps the No. 1 cause of ingrown toenails though is improper trimming. When cutting your nails, avoid angling or rounding off the nail edge. Instead, make sure you cut them straight across. Also avoid cutting them too short. Other common causes of ingrown toenails include:Fungal or bacterial infection
- Genetic conditions
- Abnormally shaped nail beds
- Toenail injury (from dropping something on your toe, or stubbing it on a piece of furniture or while playing soccer, for example)
In the early stages, you’ll typically notice redness around the affected toenail along with pain when you wear shoes that press on the area. As time goes on, the pain will worsen as the inflammation progresses. Eventually, the area may bleed and/or pus may begin to seep. In serious cases, you may develop a fever.
Most of the home remedies involve soaking your feet on a regular basis to soften the area and promote healing. A number of all-natural remedies can also be topically applied to address the infection.
Foot Soak Remedies
As a foot soak, you can use any of the following, mixed with water. Soak your feet for about 15 to 20 minutes, anywhere from four times a week to twice daily, and be sure to thoroughly dry your feet afterward:
- Mild soap
- Epsom salt (use about 1 tablespoon for a small tub of warm water)
- Hydrogen peroxide (use about one-half cup of hydrogen peroxide for a small tub of warm water)
- Apple cider vinegar (50-50 mix of vinegar and water)
For topical application, the following items can be helpful to address infection and pain:
- White Flower oil: made from several herbs, this oil has analgesic properties and is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Apply a few drops to the affected area
- Oregano essential oil: its antibacterial and antiseptic activity makes it a helpful pain reliever. However, it’s a strong skin irritant, so be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil or plain olive oil before applying it to the affected area
- Lemon: cut a thin slice of lemon and secure it around the affected toe with a bandage. Leave overnight to speed healing
- Turmeric paste: To make the paste, mix one-half teaspoon of turmeric powder with a few drops of mustard oil. Apply the paste on the affected area and cover with a bandage. Repeat two or three times a day for several days
Another painful but helpful part of home care is to separate and elevate the nail edge from the nail bed. To do this, after soaking your feet, carefully lift the corner of the nail that’s growing inward using blunt tweezers and place a tiny piece of rolled gauze between the nail and the skin. Be sure to change the gauze every day. It may take up to two weeks for the nail to sufficiently grow out so it doesn’t dig into the nail bed anymore.