What are the Causes and Treatments for Heel Pain
One of the most common foot problems is heel pain. People who have heel pain usually feel the pain behind the heel area (Achilles tendonitis) or under the heel (plantar fasciitis). Heel pain can range from mild that can disappear once rested enough to severe that can lead to long-term pain and worse, disability.
The heel is the biggest bone in the foot and its role is to give support for the body. When running or walking, the heel absorbs the foot’s impact when striding or stepping on the ground which pushes us forward. Therefore, heel is susceptible to injury and pain.
Heel pain is caused by tedious stress of the heel. One injury may not cause heel pain right away such as fall or twist. Here are the most common causes of heel pain.
Causes of Heel Pain
Plantar fasciitis – One of the common causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis or the inflammation and swelling of the plantar fascia. Plantar fascia is a shock-absorbing bowstring that provides support to the foot’s arch. Excessive stress can tear the fascia which leads to becoming inflamed.
Achilles tendonitis – Also called Achilles tendonosis, it is a long-term condition caused by excessive exercise, running or walking. This condition is common for athletes. The Achilles tendon is attached to the calf muscles of the heel bone which is responsible for running, walking, standing and jumping. Extreme activities can lead to the inflammation of the tendon.
Bursitis–There are many types of heel bursitis which can also range from mild to chronic. The inflammation of the bursa (the fibrous sac full of liquid) at the back of the heel or heel bursitis is caused by falling hard on the heels. Wrong type of shoes can also put a lot of pressure on the heel area which leads to heel bursitis.
Stress Fracture – Athletes who are always engaged to heavy physical activities are vulnerable to stress fracture. This is caused by regular stress in the foot’s metatarsal bones. Fracture can also be caused by medical conditions such as cancer and osteoporosis.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – This occurs when the large nerve at the back of the foot has been compressed or pinched.
Sprain and strain – Sprain and strain are often caused b extreme physical activities. While most do not need medical attention, some can be severe based on the incident. It also occurs when performing physical activities without proper warm up.
Ankylosing Spondylitis – Another cause of heel pain is Ankylosing spondylitis which is a form of arthritis associated with the spine.
Treatments for Heel Pain
These are the most common treatments for heel pain.
For Plantar Fasciitis:
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – This can reduce the pain and inflammation of the affected area.
Corticosteroids – This can be applied on the affected area which is only recommended if NSAIDs did not work.
Physiotherapy – A physician teaches stretching exercises to strengthen the plantar fascia as well as the Achilles tendon. It can also help to strengthen the muscles in the lower leg for improving stabilization of the heel and ankle.
Orthotics – These are important to correct footwear while adding support and cushion to enhance the healing process.
Splints – Splint is used during bed time to help the plantar fascia as well as the Achilles tendon to heal and stretch overnight.
Surgery – Surgery may be required if other treatments do not work.
Treatments for Bursitis
People who have treat bursitis need footwear that provides additional cushioning insole and heel cup in order to keep the feet stable while limiting its movements. It is also important to allow the feet to rest for a long time. If the bursitis is severe, steroid injection may be required.
Other treatments for Heel Pain
If the heel pain is not severe and does not require medical attention, here are some treatments that you can do at home. You can also check this video for heel pain treatments.
Rest – Resting is important for the heeling process of the muscles and tendon in the heel area. Make sure to avoid standing for a long period of time, walking a lot on hard surfaces especially running. These can stop the heeling process and can worsen the heel condition.
Ice – Wrap ice with a cloth or use an ice-pack over the affected area for at least fifteen minutes.
Correct footwear – Using the right-fitting shoes that offer good support is important. There are already hundreds of shoes in the market offering additional support, motion control, extra cushioning and other important features to prevent heel pain.