Are you suffering from persistent heel pain that just won't go away? Does it feel like a sharp pain on that very first step when you first get up from a chair or from bed? I know how it feels because I used to suffer from heel pain, which started during my first year of residency, from standing for many hours. I found that orthotics have worked for me and I have been wearing them for over 25 years. I can help you find the answer to your heel pain. Don't let it slow you down any longer! It's time to put your best foot forward with the help of experts who truly care.
Heel pain is a common complaint that affects people of all ages and walks of life and can be caused by various factors. It can range from mild discomfort to debilitating agony, significantly impacting one's quality of life and mobility. It's important to understand that heel pain is not a natural part of aging; it's an injury that can be effectively treated, especially when addressed promptly. Don't hesitate to reach out and schedule an immediate appointment with us.
Here are Some Common Causes of Heel Pain:
- Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, becomes inflamed or irritated. This is often caused by excessive strain, such as from prolonged standing, running, or wearing poorly fitting shoes. The pain is sharp and stabbing, primarily felt when you first wake up in the morning or after prolonged rest. During rest, the band contracts and becomes shorter. On that first step, the excessive, sudden pull of the plantar fascia will cause the inflammation to get worse. If left untreated, the pain can become persistent, as the inflammation can affect the heel bone itself. It may also lead to arch pain.
- Achilles Tendonitis: Achilles tendonitis is another common cause of heel pain, characterized by discomfort at the back of your heel. The Achilles tendon, one of the strongest tendons in your body, can become inflamed due to overuse of repetitive stress, very common in athletes and runners. This inflammation leads to pain, which may extend up into your calf muscles. Due to the poor blood flow to some areas of the Achilles tendon, there is a greater susceptibility of tearing it, or causing permanent damage. Treating Achilles tendonitis promptly is crucial to finding relief.
- Heel Spurs: Heel spurs are calcifications that develop on the heel bone. They can form at the attachment point of the plantar fascia or the Achilles tendon. The constant pulling created by both the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon can cause micro tears that begin to calcify as they heal. The good news is that seeing a heel spur on x-rays does not necessarily mean that is the cause of your pain. Remember, we don’t treat x-rays. We are here to fully evaluate you and treat you case by case. Do not be afraid to make an appointment fearing you need surgery to remove the spur!
- Heel Bursitis: Did you know our bodies have ways of protecting and healing themselves? When there is an area of irritation in our joints or bony prominences, our bodies create a bursa, a fluid-filled sac designed to cushion those irritated areas. Unfortunately, when the irritation persists, the bursa itself gets inflamed, causing bursitis. Bursitis can cause pain on the bottom or back of your heel and even worse, may occur in conjunction with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis.
- Fat Pad Atrophy: Unfortunately, the first place we lose fat from is where we need it the most : our heels. The fat pad located underneath the heel can wear down over time, leading to less cushioning and increased pressure on the heel bone, resulting in pain. That is why as we get older, we prefer comfort shoes.
- Stress Fracture: With all the repeated impact and pressure we usually put on our heels, they can start getting a stress reaction. That stress reaction can weaken the shell of the heel bone and cause a very small crack or a hairline fracture, just as when you slightly crack an egg, but don’t break it. But guess what, if that stress continues, it can cause a much worse fracture, which may require surgical intervention to properly treat it. When you visit us at Forward Foot & Ankle Center with heel pain, we make sure we take x-rays to rule out a stress fracture. Prompt treatment is crucial to prevent further damage and more serious fractures that may require surgical intervention.
- Haglund's Deformity: Haglund's deformity, commonly known as a "pump bump," manifests as a bony enlargement on the back of the heel. It often occurs due to friction between the heel and the back of shoes. While it can cause varying levels of pain, there are treatment options available to address the condition.
- Nerve Entrapment: Sometimes, the nerves around the ankle and heel bone can become trapped or compressed, leading to pain in the heel and surrounding areas.
Symptoms of Heel Pain:
The symptoms of heel pain can vary depending on the underlying cause. Common manifestations include:
- Pain Underneath the Heel: The most typical location of heel pain is underneath the heel bone. The pain may be sharp, dull, or throbbing in nature.
- Pain at the Back of the Heel: In cases of Achilles tendinitis or bursitis, the pain may be felt at the back of the heel, close to where the Achilles tendon inserts into the bone.
- Stiffness and Discomfort: Heel pain can often be accompanied by stiffness and discomfort, particularly after periods of rest or in the morning.
- Swelling and Redness: Inflammation may cause swelling and redness in the affected area.
- Difficulty Walking: Severe heel pain can make walking or standing for prolonged periods challenging.
Diagnosing Your Heel Pain
To determine the specific cause of your heel pain, a proper diagnosis is essential. In our office, we utilize advanced digital X-ray technology to examine your bones and joints in detail. We may also employ diagnostic ultrasound to assess the soft tissue for inflammation. In some cases, further testing such as MRI or bone scans may be necessary to provide a more comprehensive evaluation.
Heel Pain Treatment
Non-Surgical Treatment Options:
- RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation): Applying ice packs to your heel is particularly beneficial in reducing inflammation.
- Oral Anti-inflammatory Medication: Prescribed medications can help alleviate inflammation and relieve pain.
- Corticosteroid Injections: Administered with the aid of ultrasound guidance, these injections target the inflamed area directly.
- Stretching Splint: Wearing a stretching splint helps maintain proper foot position and stretch the soft tissues during sleep or rest periods.
- Custom Orthotics: Tailored orthotics are designed to provide stability, support, and reduce inflammation by correcting foot mechanics. Most importantly they will prevent recurrence of your heel pain
- Regenerative Medicine: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections utilize your own blood to promote healing and reduce inflammation.
Surgery is considered a last resort and is rarely necessary for heel pain. In the unlikely event that surgical intervention is required, we will discuss the available options with you. The most common procedure involves a plantar fascia release to alleviate tension on the heel. However, let's focus on exploring non-surgical treatments first, as they are typically effective in resolving heel pain.
Visit our Livermore podiatrist office for Heel Pain Treatment: I understand that dealing with persistent heel pain can be disheartening, but it doesn't have to be a long-lasting issue. Together, we can identify the cause of your pain and create a personalized treatment plan. Remember, seeking treatment early is essential. Reach out to us by calling 925-532-0099 or requesting an appointment online. I look forward to meeting you soon and helping you find relief from your heel pain.