Heel pain is one of the most common complaints we hear from our patients. Pain, swelling, redness – these symptoms may come about as fairly minor and slightly annoying at first, but sometimes they can become severe enough to affect your mobility and overall quality of life.
And though heel pain can be caused by a traumatic injury, more often than not it is a result of overuse. Runners and athletes are frequently afflicted by painful heel conditions due to the overuse of their tendons and muscles.
But you should keep in mind that some risk factors also make certain individuals more susceptible—people with diabetes, who are obese, or spend a lot of time on their feet are at higher risk for developing conditions in their heels.
There is good news, however. For as many possible causes there are for your heel discomfort, there are just as many things you can do about it.
And we are here to help you!
At Precision Foot and Ankle, our experts will thoroughly examine your feet in order to accurately diagnose your condition and provide the best treatment options available to address your specific case. From conservative methods to surgical treatment options, we can help you get back on your feet quickly and safely.
But first, let’s learn a little more about heel conditions – their symptoms, their causes and how to treat them.
There are many possibilities for the underlying cause of your heel problem, and depending on what type of condition you may have developed, the symptoms you experience may vary. Apart from general pain in the heel, there are some other symptoms to keep in mind, like:
- Swelling around the heel
- Swelling on the bottom of the heel
- Tingling or burning sensation in the heel
- Pain that is usually worse when getting out of bed
- Inability to stretch the foot
- Pain on the bottom of the heel
- Pain in the back of the heel
- Pain in the arch of the foot
- Pain that increases over time
Now that you have pinpointed the location, severity and type of discomfort you are experiencing, you may be wondering what the culprit for your discomfort may be. So let’s explore the possibilities.
The Risk Factors
Maybe your work requires you to be on your feet all day, or maybe you enjoy going on regular morning jogs. There are many risk factors that can play into your likelihood to develop heel problems. And if you are experiencing unusual symptoms in your heels, you may be wondering where they’re coming from.
Before we get into specific diagnoses, let’s look at the underlying risk factors which may have contributed to developing the problem in the first place. Some of these risk factors include:
- Performing exercises that involve a lot of jumping and/or running
- Having a faulty biochemical structure (misaligned feet)
- Having foot deformities like flat feet or high arches
- Uneven distribution of weight while walking
- Continual wear of shoes with poor arch support
Your age, genetics, and lifestyle are also factors to take into consideration. Naturally, as you get older you will become more prone to feeling discomfort. And depending on your DNA you may also be more susceptible to developing foot conditions that affect the heel.
Now, what conditions can arise from these risk factors?
Here are some of the most common heel conditions we treat at our Florida office:
- Achilles tendinitis. This condition develops when the tendon connecting the calf to the heel becomes inflamed. Achilles tendinitis often develops due to overuse or degeneration (wear and tear) of the tendon over time. This condition can be painful and can severely limit the ability to walk and run.
- Bursitis. This condition develops when a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that cushions a joint and muscles, becomes irritated and swollen. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness, and swelling of the heel and back of the ankle.
- Plantar fasciitis. This condition develops when the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes and supports the arch of your foot, becomes inflamed. It can cause severe pain that interferes with walking and running.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome. This condition develops when the tibial nerve (located in the back on the ankle) becomes compressed or pinched in the tarsal tunnel of the ankle. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, or shooting pain in the heel.
- Haglund’s deformity. This condition develops as a bump or enlargement on the back of the heel bone. The Achilles tendon runs over the bump, which may cause pain or degeneration of the tendon. Symptoms may include redness, inflammation, and severe pain at the back of the ankle.
Teens going through puberty may suffer from Sever’s disease or heel bumps; although these are usually temporary growth-related issues, they should still be evaluated by a foot specialist if they are causing pain. Traumas such as a sprain or fracture can also cause heel pain and conditions.
All in all, finding the root cause of your problem will help determine the best course of action for getting your symptoms under control. So if you are experiencing unusual symptoms in your heel—or your feet in general—you should come visit our office right away!
Thankfully, there are plenty of treatments available to address heel conditions. For more mild-to-moderate cases, we may recommend simple conservative treatment options that you can incorporate into your daily routine from the comfort of your own home.
Some common conservative treatment methods we may recommend include:
- I.C.E (rest, icing, compression and elevation of the area several times a day)
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen
- Bracing or splinting the foot
- Wearing custom orthotics
- Physical therapy
- Wearing protective and supportive shoes
- Avoiding certain activities or high-impact exercises
Conservative treatment is usually the first course of action, unless the condition is more serious. And only once we have exhausted all non-surgical care and pain is still present will we decide on more aggressive tactics for handling your symptoms.
Depending on your condition, we may recommend steroid injections, physical therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Severe conditions may require surgery, and if that ends up being the case for you, then you can rest assured that you are in good hands at our office.
We Can Help You!
Don’t let your heels keep you from doing the things you love! There are simple and easy solutions to manage your symptoms and promote faster healing. And we are well equipped with the best tools and knowledge available to help you get back on your feet quickly and safely.