What are the Best Ways to Treat Heel Pain?
Unfortunately, too many people make the mistake of thinking that “common” is the same as “normal.”
Why is this a mistake? Put simply – pain is never normal.
Sure, there are instances wherein pain might be expected, but this is still a matter of your body saying “Hey! Something’s wrong!!”
That is probably easy to understand. As a fairly obvious example, if your hand is on an oven burner and you start to feel a painful sensation, you’re going to move your hand. If you don’t, you will end up sustaining serious damage.
So, pain is a signal something is wrong, and many people experience heel pain. What gives?
Well, there are three main reasons heel pain is such a common phenomenon:
- There are a couple of essential connective tissues anchored to the heel bone (calcaneus) – the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon—that can become inflamed.
- Our heels sustain tremendous force loads on a daily basis.
- Heel pain doesn’t develop from only a single core problem – multiple conditions and injuries can cause it.
We’ll touch on more specific reasons—the responsible conditions or injuries that cause heel pain—shortly, but it needs to be said – no matter who you are or your situation, this problem makes enjoyable experiences less enjoyable. Even worse is when it keeps you from doing them in the first place!
We don’t want that to happen to you – especially because there are things we can do to help. In fact, we provide heel pain treatment for many patients who come to visit us from across our greater Colorado Springs communities.
If you are suffering from heel pain, come see us for a customized treatment plan!
What Causes Heel Pain?
Now let’s take a quick look at some of the more common responsible conditions, including:
- Plantar fasciitis. This is the leading source of heel pain for adults, one that starts when your plantar fascia sustains tears from excessive physical strain. The plantar fascia is a sturdy, durable band of fibrous tissue that runs the length of the foot’s underside. It connects the forefoot with the heel bone to help support the arch. Whereas it is quite durable, this fascia isn’t infallible. You can recognize a case of plantar fasciitis by intense, stabbing pain felt in the bottom of the heel with the first steps of the day (or following periods of extended rest).
- Achilles tendinitis. Whereas the previous condition happens to the plantar fascia and causes pain following inactivity, this one happens to the Achilles tendon and the pain is strongest during (or immediately following) physical activity. As with the connective tissue on the underside of your foot, the Achilles tendon is a durable connective tissue. In fact, this is the largest and strongest tendon in your body. That still doesn’t make it indestructible, however. Overuse can lead to inflammation and pain in the back of the heel.
- Sever’s disease. Don’t let the name fool you – this isn’t actually a disease. Rather, Sever’s is a condition teens can experience when a growth plate in the back of the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. As a result, the Achilles tendon tugs on the back of the heel bone. As with Achilles tendinitis, the pain is usually worse with physical activity and will subside with rest.
Those are the key sources of heel pain, but there are others. Heel spurs, bursitis, and heel bone fractures can all cause pain in the back of your foot. Between those and the aforementioned conditions, there is a common thread – you should seek treatment if you are in pain.
Naturally, before we start treating your heel pain, a key first step is to accurately diagnose the problem for you. Even though we’ve discussed some of the specific symptoms, and especially location of the pain, above, it is still best practice to come and see us for professional diagnosis – the pain in the back of your heel could be Achilles tendinitis, but it also might be a case of bursitis (as just one example).
Treatment is certainly instrumental in relieving existing symptoms, but it can also play a role in preventing long-term issues from developing as well. We don’t only want you to find relief from the pain you’re currently experiencing – we want it to stay away!
Prior to your appointment at our Colorado Springs office, you may wish to use a bit of home care for heel pain. This is a matter of:
- Resting. Your body has a remarkable ability to heal damaged tissue. For it to do so, however, you have to take it easy. Rest not only provides an opportunity to heal – it also prevents greater damage from occurring.
- Stretching. Given the role connective tissues (plantar fascia, Achilles tendon) play in this common problem, it only makes sense that keeping them limber is beneficial. Be sure to connect with our office for specific stretches we recommend.
- Icing. Cold therapy has been practiced for literally centuries. You might think this is only because earlier civilizations didn’t have advanced treatment, but a better explanation is simply because it works. When you do ice a pained heel, make sure to wrap your ice or frozen source in a thin towel first to protect your skin. Also, you don’t want to keep ice on the site for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
- Medicating. We may need to prescribe something different, but you can usually find pain relief from over-the-counter medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) tend to be particularly effective. This can be attributed to the fact they address the inflammation.
With regards to professional care, we provide remedies such as better types of shoes, taping and strapping methods, or custom orthotics. In particular, orthotics customized by us to work with your unique feet to address abnormal foot movements can be surprisingly effective.
We can always prescribe pain and anti-inflammatory medications (oral or injected) that help you over the hump until your tissues heal. Physical therapy using certain stretches and exercises can also be quite beneficial.
In a few cases, you may not find enough relief from these treatments. That is when surgical procedures may be a final option. For example, a torn Achilles tendon can be repaired surgically so it heals better or an inflamed bursa or heel spur can be removed if needed.
If you would like more information on heel pain treatment, or are ready to put the pain behind you and move forward with your life, contact McVay Foot & Ankle either through our online form or by giving us a call at (719) 266-5000 today!