Nothing slows you down quite like heel pain.
Every day, millions of Americans struggle through the discomfort. They’re forced to cut back on their activity, and even give up hobbies they love, simply because it hurts too much to stand or walk for any significant length of time.
Unfortunately, many try to ignore the early warning signs, or simply shrug it off as “part of getting older.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Heel pain is a treatable condition, whether you’re 25 or 85. It is not normal, and an experienced podiatrist such as Dr. Bruce Scudday will have many ways to help you.
Why Do My Heels Hurt?
Heel pain can be caused by a wide variety of underlying factors and clinical diagnoses. That means it’s important to uncover both the root causes of your pain, as well as identify the precise location and nature of the injury.
Factors that are often linked with heel pain include:
- Occupations that require a lot of walking and standing
- Active hobbies, such as sports, running, or hiking
- Wearing improper footwear
- Inefficient foot structures—especially flat feet
- Abnormal walking gaits
The Main Culprit: Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the most common heel pain diagnosis in adults. It is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick and tough (but clearly not invincible) band of tissue that connects the front of the heel to toes and supports the main arch of the foot.
With this condition, pain is usually concentrated on the underside of the heel. For many, the symptoms are strongest in the early morning or after getting up from a lengthy rest. This is because the plantar fascia tightens during rest; stretching it out again by standing and walking causes a brief spike in pain.
Other Heel Pain Diagnoses
Of course, it’s very possible that your heel pain is caused by something else entirely. Other relatively common diagnoses include:
- Achilles tendinitis. Here the pain will be concentrated along the back of the heel, or just above it, where the heel cord (Achilles tendon) attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone.
- Sever’s disease. This condition affects children, especially kids around ages 8-13 who play a lot of sports. It’s caused by inflammation in the growth plate of the heel bone, which is exposed and vulnerable during this period of development.
- Heel spurs. Heel spurs are bony deposits that build up on the heel bone, particularly after a chronic case of plantar fasciitis. They may or may not cause pain on their own.
- Pinched nerves. If one or more of the sensory nerves travelling through the ankle is damaged, it can easily cause pain in the heel area.
- Haglund’s deformity.
- Arthritis. Joint pain is fairly common around the heels. Arthritic heel pain may be caused by general wear and tear (osteoarthritis) or inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
What Are My Treatment Options?
We have good news on this front. The vast majority of heel pain symptoms and conditions—well over 90 percent—can be resolved through the use of traditional, conservative care options. Options include:
- RICE. We’re not talking about the staple food. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest the heel for a few days by avoiding strenuous activity, and manage pain and swelling through ice therapy, compression wraps, and putting your foot up.
- Shoe modifications. If poor footwear contributed to your heel pain, switching to better gear can help relieve and prevent it.
- Padding. Heel pads in shoes can reduce painful pressure.
- Night splints. Wearing splints while you sleep keeps the plantar fascia in a lengthened position, which means less pain in the morning.
- Taping and strapping. Using tape or straps helps support the feet and arch, which in turn reduces stress and strain on the heels.
- Physical therapy. Depending on your diagnoses, a variety of stretches and exercises may be recommended to relieve tension and build strength and flexibility around painful heels.
- Orthotics. If necessary, we may recommend a full-contact insertable insole, or orthotic, to wear inside your shoes. Orthotics can offer a greater and more specialized level of support and cushioning than simple pads. These may be prefabricated (“over the counter”) or custom made as needed.
- Medications and injections. Tough pain may be managed via over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, prescription painkillers, or corticosteroid injections as necessary.
- Surgery. This is only needed for a small minority of cases that do not respond to conservative treatments. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended to correct a structural foot that may lead to heel pain, such as flat feet.
If you notice heel pain persisting for longer than a few days—or getting worse—please don’t try to take matters into your own hands. Our team can help you get a quick, accurate diagnosis and build you a personalized, effective treatment program.
To schedule at either of our convenient El Paso locations, please give us a call today.
- Curie Drive: (915) 533-5151
- George Dieter Drive: (915) 856-3331