Help for Heel Pain
Extreme or reoccurring heel pain can interfere with our ability to work, exercise or keep up with our daily lives. If you’re experiencing heel pain lasting for more than a few weeks which makes walking difficult, it’s time to see a professional before the injury grows worse.
The great news: even severe heel pain is often treated and reversed without the need for surgery. Dr. Jeremy McVay and Dr. Candice Cooper, our experienced and knowledgeable podiatrists, can provide the treatments you need to be rid of heel pain.
Don’t give up your active lifestyle for something which can be easily treated, instead learn about the facts of heel pain.
Sources of Heel Pain
Any reoccurring pressure on your foot can cause strain and heel pain, ranging from the way you walk to the shape of your foot. While heel pain varies depending on the root cause, most injuries display common symptoms.
Athletes, much like those who are overweight, put extreme pressure on their feet. Heel pain is also quite common for those who stand on hard concrete for long periods of time, or wear ill-fitting shoes that lack appropriate cushion and arch support for absorbing impact. You’re also more likely to develop heel pain if you have high foot arches, flat feet, or arthritis. Sound like you?
Heel pain symptoms can also include bruising, a bony growth on your heel, or discoloration. You may feel a reoccurring pain behind or beneath the heel, or it may be coming from within the heel bone itself. The most common cause for heel pain: plantar fasciitis.
This is the leading cause of sharp heel pain, usually caused by repetitive motion such as running regularly. Since this puts pressure on the heel and arch of your foot, the reoccurring tension and stress on the fascia will often cause small tears.
The fascia is the connective tissue—or ligament—which runs along the bottom of your foot and attaches your heel to your foot. Repetitive stretching and impact can tear the facia and irritate or inflame it, causing sharp pain and tissue damage.
While the shooting, stabbing pain common with plantar fasciitis can flare up at any time, it’s most clearly felt after rest, such as in the morning when you’re just getting out of bed.
Heel spurs can form on your heel bone, seen as a bony growth. This happens as your foot is trying to heal itself from repetitive strains and tears to the heel, often the result of plantar fasciitis. While bone spurs are extremely common, they are not usually painful. Only 5% of people suffer from foot pain due to bone spurs. Despite heel spurs, it’s far more likely that your heel pain is due to plantar fasciitis.
Achilles Tendon Disorders
The Achilles tendon is the longest, strongest tendon we have. This fibrous tissue connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. Overusing this tendon can lead to pain, inflammation, and eventually injury, seen commonly among runners and basketball players. The result, Achilles tendinitis, causes pain, swelling, and stiffness above the heel or toward the back of the ankle. If left untreated it can result in tendinosis as the tendon breaks down, tears, and ruptures. At that point, it may require surgery.
Bursitis signals inflammation of the bursa—the small sack of fluid that cushions and lubricates areas where tissues rub together. There are bursae throughout our bodies to cushion our joints. When these fluid-filled pockets swell up, you’ll feel a bruise-like, tender feeling on the back of your heel. Bursitis can even be caused by ill-fitting shoes or anything that digs into the back of your heel.
Stress fractures often begin as tiny hairline fissures within the bone. Since they’re so small, pain often comes on slowly and then worsens, making early detection more difficult. Stress fractures often result in pain along the bottom, side, and back of the heel. The pain may ease when you’re resting or in the morning, and feel worse at night. If you suspect a stress fracture, limit your physical activity immediately and see our podiatrists before it turns into a complete fracture.
Heel Pain Treatments
Most heel pain problems will improve over time using nonsurgical therapies that focus on easing pain, lowering inflammation, minimizing stress, and improving foot flexibility. Treatments often include nonsurgical recommendations such as:
- Staying off the injured area.
- Injections to ease swelling or pain, including steroid injections.
- Orthotic devices including custom-made or over-the-counter shoe inserts, splints, walking boots, wraps, braces, or taping the heel or foot arch.
- Physical therapy including massage, stretching exercises, and ultrasound therapy.
- Surgery, though rare, is still necessary in some cases.
Make sure to get a professional evaluation for your heel pain. The longer heel pain remains untreated, the harder it becomes to treat and the worse the chronic pain can become. Our foot and ankle specialists will be able to determine the cause of your pain and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Get Your Heel Pain Treated Right the First Time!
Come see McVay Foot & Ankle to get your heel pain treated, and done the right way. Our foot care team has the experience and knowledge be able to find the source of your heel pain quickly and get you the relief you need. Our team is skilled at finding the root causes of foot and ankle problems, and can even tackle sports injuries and diabetic foot care.