What Causes Heel Pain?
Heel pain is a symptom, not a diagnosis. Several different conditions can cause similar symptoms.
That said, plantar fasciitis is the most frequent heel pain diagnosis for adults. In this condition, pain tends to be located along the underside of the heel and is usually the worst in the early morning, or after rising from a lengthy nap or sit. It is the result of stretching and tearing in the plantar fascia ligament, which attaches to the heel bone and runs across the bottom of the arch.
Possible underlying causes of plantar fasciitis (and other heel pain diagnoses) often include some combination of the following:
- Wearing unsupportive, ill-fitting, or worn-out footwear.
- Structural defects in feet or gait abnormalities, which can place excessive force on the heels during regular motion. These defects could be genetically inherited or developed over time.
- Regular running, dancing, playing certain sports, or other types of activities or exercises that place a lot of weight and force on your feet.
- Occupations that keep you walking or standing most of the day.
Can I Treat Heel Pain at Home?
In many cases of mild foot pain or soreness, the answer is yes!
Give yourself some time to rest, avoiding high-impact activities for a while if you can. Use ice, stretching, and over-the-counter medications to help with pain. Evaluate your footwear and make sure you’re always wearing appropriate shoes for your activities.
If the pain is severe, impairs your ability to enjoy your hobbies or engage in daily activities, or simply persists despite your at-home care, give us a call so we can help.
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What to Expect from Your Doctor
When you first arrive at our office, we’ll ask you some questions to better understand the nature of your pain. How long have you had it? Is it worst in the morning, or after activity? What shoes have you been wearing? What treatment methods have you already tried?
We will also perform a physical examination, and take an X-ray. If you’re a runner, the examination might also include a full biomechanical gait analysis.
By taking the time to listen and obtain all this information, we’ll be in the best position to make an accurate diagnosis and customize a treatment plan that will be the most effective for your circumstances.
Treatments we may recommend include:
- Shoe advice. We’ll provide you with a list of doctor-approved shoe brands and styles to help you pick out a pair that won’t hurt your heels.
- Stretching and physical therapy. Certain stretches can help ease the pulling and tension on heels and relieve pain. We’ll send you home with a handout guide on stretching and icing your heels.
- Taping, strapping, or padding. These tools can help provide support and cushioning for your heels and arches to reduce your discomfort.
- Night splints. Wearing splints at night keep your plantar fascia and calves in a lengthened, stretched position as you sleep. This can greatly ease discomfort in the morning.
- Orthotics. Orthotics replace regular insoles in your shoes, and offer additional cushioning and support in a way that is most beneficial to your needs. Custom orthotics manufactured from a plaster cast of your feet are the best choice for most people with heel pain, since they perform better and last longer. However, we also carry a selection of prefabricated orthotics as well.
- Injections. We can provide a cortisone shot to help manage pain if necessary. This is usually not recommended unless initial treatments have had mixed success and you’re returning for a second appointment.
- CAM walker. This special walking boot allows you to move about freely while protecting and stabilizing the ankles and minimizing the amount of stress and force on your feet. It may be appropriate in situations where there is a fracture or other serious injury that requires limited weight-bearing in order to heal properly.
To prevent ingrown toenails, it is best to avoid trimming your toenails too short. Trim your toenails straight across instead of curving at the edges. Trying to cut out the ingrown edges can make the condition worse over time. If this is the first time you are experiencing an ingrown toenail, you may also try to soak your feet in lukewarm water with epsom salts. If you do not notice improvement in your symptoms within a couple of days, see your local podiatrist for further management before the condition becomes worse. In general, home treatment does little to fix the problem and can make the problem worse.
When To See Your Podiatrist
You should see your podiatrist if you continue to experience pain and redness or if your symptoms worsen. Your podiatrist will perform a minor procedure to remove the offending nail border and improve your pain. The procedure will likely be performed with local anesthesia to make you comfortable. They may also prescribe an antibiotic to treat the infection if needed. Most people experience minimal pain after the procedure and can resume normal activity the next day.
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