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Everything You Should Know About Heel Pain

Overview

Painful Heel

Heel Pain is a problem that affects far too many people, especially since the remedies for it are conservative and effective. If the backs of your feet ache, don't ignore the discomfort or try to walk through it. The longer an issue like plantar fasciitis goes untreated, the worse it becomes and the harder it is to treat.

Causes

Heel pain has a number of causes that are typically associated with overuse of the heel bone. You can strain your heel by pounding your feet on hard surfaces, being overweight, or wearing shoes that do not fit properly. These strains can irritate the heel?s bones, muscles, or tendons. Other common causes of heel pain include the following. Heel Spurs. Heel spurs develop when the lining that covers the heel is continuously stretched. When this occurs, pieces of the lining may break off. Heel spurs typically develop in athletes who frequently run or jog. They are also common in people who are obese. Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis develops when the tissue connecting the heel to the ball of the foot becomes inflamed. Plantar fasciitis also occurs in athletes who frequently run or jog. It can also result from wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Excessive Pronation. Excessive pronation occurs when the ligaments and tendons at the back of the heel are stretched too much. This condition can occur when injuries to the back, hips, or knees change the way you walk. Achilles Tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis can occur when the Achilles tendon, which runs along the back of the heel, becomes inflamed. This condition is common in people with active lifestyles who frequently run and jog, professional athletes and dancers.

Symptoms

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis vary, but the classic symptom is pain after rest--when you first get out of bed in the morning, or when you get up after sitting down for a while during the day. The pain usually diminishes after a few minutes of walking, sometimes even disappearing, but the pain is commonly felt again the longer you're on the foot. Fasciitis can be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by the chronic irritation of long-periods of standing, especially on concrete, by being overweight. It doesn't help that fascia doesn't heal particularly quickly because it has relatively poor circulation (which is why it's white in colour).

Diagnosis

To arrive at a diagnosis, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain your medical history and examine your foot. Throughout this process the surgeon rules out all the possible causes for your heel pain other than plantar fasciitis. In addition, diagnostic imaging studies such as x-rays or other imaging modalities may be used to distinguish the different types of heel pain. Sometimes heel spurs are found in patients with plantar fasciitis, but these are rarely a source of pain. When they are present, the condition may be diagnosed as plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome.

Non Surgical Treatment

If pain and other symptoms of inflammation?redness, swelling, heat?persist, you should limit normal daily activities and contact a doctor of podiatric medicine. The podiatric physician will examine the area and may perform diagnostic X-rays to rule out problems of the bone. Early treatment might involve oral or injectable anti-inflammatory medication, exercise and shoe recommendations, taping or strapping, or use of shoe inserts or orthotic devices. Taping or strapping supports the foot, placing stressed muscles and tendons in a physiologically restful state. Physical therapy may be used in conjunction with such treatments. A functional orthotic device may be prescribed for correcting biomechanical imbalance, controlling excessive pronation, and supporting of the ligaments and tendons attaching to the heel bone. It will effectively treat the majority of heel and arch pain without the need for surgery. Only a relatively few cases of heel pain require more advanced treatments or surgery. If surgery is necessary, it may involve the release of the plantar fascia, removal of a spur, removal of a bursa, or removal of a neuroma or other soft-tissue growth.

Surgical Treatment

If treatment hasn't worked and you still have painful symptoms after a year, your GP may refer you to either an orthopaedic surgeon, a surgeon who specialises in surgery that involves bones, muscles and joints or a podiatric surgeon, a podiatrist who specialises in foot surgery. Surgery is sometimes recommended for professional athletes and other sportspeople whose heel pain is adversely affecting their career. Plantar release surgery is the most widely used type of surgery for heel pain. The surgeon will cut the fascia to release it from your heel bone and reduce the tension in your plantar fascia. This should reduce any inflammation and relieve your painful symptoms. Surgery can be performed either as open surgery, where the section of the plantar fascia is released by making a cut into your heel or endoscopic or minimal incision surgery - where a smaller incision is made and special instruments are inserted through the incision to gain access to the plantar fascia. Endoscopic or minimal incision surgery has a quicker recovery time, so you will be able to walk normally much sooner (almost immediately), compared with two to three weeks for open surgery. A disadvantage of endoscopic surgery is that it requires both a specially trained surgical team and specialised equipment, so you may have to wait longer for treatment than if you were to choose open surgery. Endoscopic surgery also carries a higher risk of damaging nearby nerves, which could result in symptoms such as numbness, tingling or some loss of movement in your foot. As with all surgery, plantar release carries the risk of causing complications such as infection, nerve damage and a worsening of your symptoms after surgery (although this is rare). You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both techniques with your surgical team.

Prevention

Pain In The Heel

Before you get out of bed in the morning, and then periodically throughout the day, do the following exercises to increase flexibility and ease pain. Slowly flex your foot and toes to stretch the tissue on the bottom of your sore foot. Hold the stretch for 10 counts. Relax and repeat. Do gentle ankle rolls to keep the tissues around the ankle and on the back of the heel flexible. Sit on the edge of your bed and roll your foot back and forth over a tennis ball.