Heel pain is one of the most common conditions treated by podiatrists. It is often a message from the body that something is on need of medical attention. Pain that occurs right after an injury or early in an illness may play a protective role, waning us about damage we have suffered.
Who Gets Heel Pain?
The greatest incidence of heel pain is seen in middle aged men and women. It is seen in those who participate in regular sporting activities and those who are significantly overweight and on their feet a lot. Heel pain can also occur in children, usually between 8 and 13 as they become increasingly active in sport.
The Causes of Heel Pain?
It is thought that higher arches or flatter arches, or feet that roll in too much are the causes of heel pain. This can place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues attached to it. The stress may also result from injury or a bruise incurred while walking, running or jumping on hard surfaces, wearing poorly constructed shoes or being significantly over weight. Certain diseases can also contribute to heel pain.
One factor sometimes associated with heel pain is the heel spur. A bony growth under the heel bone. There are no visible features on the heel, but a deep painful spot can be found in or around the middle sole of the heel. Heel spurs result from strain on muscles of the foot. This may be from biomechanical imbalance, a condition that occurs in many people.
Approximately 10 per cent of the population may have heel spurs with out any pain.
Both heel pain and heel spurs are frequently associated with an inflammation of the long band of tissue that connects the heel and the ball of the foot. The inflammation of this arch are is called plantar fasciitis. The inflammation may be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area, and by chronic irritation that sometimes accompanies athletic lifestyles.
Other Causes of Heel Pain
Excessive rolling in of the feet whilst walking/running
An inflamed bursa (bursitis) - a small sack of fluid at the back or under the heel
A neuroma (nerve growth)
Other soft tissue growths
Bone enlargement at the back of the heel
Bruises or stress fractures to the heel bones
Overcoming the Problem
If pain and other symptoms of inflammation - redness, swelling, heat persist, you should limit normal daily activities and consult your podiatrist.
Your podiatrist may refer you for x-rays to look for heel spurs or fractures.
Early treatment may involve exercise and shoe recommendations, taping or strapping and anti inflammatory medication. Taping or strapping supports the foot, placing stressed muscles in a restful state and preventing straining of the plantar fascia. Other physical therapies may also be used, including ice packs and ultrasound.
Treatments will effectively treat the majority of heel and arch pain with out the need for surgery. Only a relatively few cases of heel pain require surgery. If required, surgery may involve the removal of a spur, but also involve the release of the plantar fascia, removal of bursa or removal of neuroma or other soft tissue growth.
Your recovery will depend on the cause of your heel pain and individual health. If you are suffering from a heel spur or plantar fasciitis, it normally takes about 6 - 8 weeks for a healthy individual to fully recover. That is when the injured area is fully rested or properly strapped
Preventing Future Problems
Wear shoes that fit well, front back and sides - and have shock absorbent soles, rigid uppers and supportive heel counters. Do not wear shoes with excessive wear on heels or soles.
Stretches and Exercise
Prepare properly before exercising, warm up before running or walking and stretch afterwards.
Pace yourself when you participate in athletic activities. If overweight, try non weight bearing activities such as swimming or cycling.