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Heel Pain: What Causes It and How To Treat It

Tuesday, 13 January 2015 14:41

Very few adults are strangers to heel pain. At some point in our lives, we've run too hard, hiked too far, gained too much weight, played basketball in past-their-prime sneakers, or didn't rest when we should have. Sometimes it even appears for no reason we can pinpoint. But without a doubt, we never forget that pinching and excruciating pain in our heel.

heel pain causes and treatment

Heel pain occurs in the underside or the back of your heel. When it appears on the underside, it's usually a result of damage or irritation to the plantar fascia, the tendon which runs from your heel to the base of your toes. This type of heel pain is called plantar fasciitis. If heel pain occurs at the back of your heel, the cause is usually damage to the Achilles tendon, such as achilles tendinitis. But heel pain can also be caused by arthritis, a bruise, heel spurs, gout, pinched nerve, bursitis ("pump bump"), peripheral neuropathy, a fracture, bone infection, or other conditions. For this reason, any heel pain should always be evaluated by a podiatrist to determine the best course of treatment to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist if:

  • You have severe pain and swelling near your heel
  • Severe heel pain after an injury
  • Inability to bend your foot downward without pain
  • Inability to rise on your toes without heel pain
  • Inability to walk without heel pain
  • Heel pain that continues when at rest
  • Heel pain that lasts more than 1 week

How to treat heel pain at home

Rest, Ice, and Elevation. Ice packs on the heel reduce inflammation, especially when paired with over the counter anti inflammatory medicine like advil or aleve. Rest and elevate the sore foot whenever possible.

Change your routine. If heel pain is the result of an athletic injury, change your routine. Training the same way, on the same surface, with the same shoes, will only make things worse.

Stretch before working out. Stretching your feet, raising yourself on your toes, even walking, will help warm up the plantar fascia and achilles tendon, reducing the risk of injury. When muscles, tendons, bones, and joints are gently warmed up before a workout, they're much better at handling the load you demand of them.

Are you wearing a quality pair of shoes? Whether athletic shoes or dress shoes, your footwear must fit your feet correctly and give ample support and padding. You may save money with cheap shoes, but the pain will be expensive.

How a podiatrist may treat your heel pain

  • Custom orthotics to support your feet and relieve pressure on the heel
  • Shoe modifications
  • Prescription medications
  • Steroid injections to relieve pain and inflammation
  • Immobilization in a walking boot
  • Physical therapy
  • If conservative measures are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended

Read more: Does your child have heel pain?

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