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What causes heel pain?

What causes heel pain?


A plethora of conditions including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and Haglund’s syndrome can be the source of misery in your heel’s posterior. These ailments may involve either the heel bone or structures close to it.

Heel pain can range from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing discomfort depending on its source and severity. It may manifest behind or beneath the heel area.

When out and about, the discomfort in your heels may be more prominent right after waking up. But as you progress with your steps throughout the day, it might lessen. However, if you persistently walk or stand for extended periods of time, this will only aggravate the pain even further.

Common Causes of Heel Pain

Heel pain is commonly the result of an ailment or infection to either the heel bone itself or nearby structures and tissues. It can also be attributed to nerve issues that impact one’s ankle or foot.

The calcaneus, or heel bone, is located at the rear of the foot directly below the ankle. This small bone works together with its surrounding tissues and a tiny talus to promote balance and side-to-side motion in that area of the feet.

Heel pain typically originates from two sources: plantar fasciitis, involving the tissue linking the heel to the base of the foot; or Achilles tendonitis, which affects the bottom part of your calf muscle. Both are painful and can be debilitating if not treated properly.

Related article about heel pain.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis (plan·taarfa·shee·ai·tuhs), a condition that causes persistent pain in the heel, is one of the most widespread sources of foot discomfort. This inflammatory disorder affects a thick band of tissue–called plantar fascia–that links your heel bone to your toes and runs along the bottom side of each foot.

The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a piercing pain, which tends to be worse with your first steps each morning. As you start moving around, the discomfort usually subsides; however, it may return after long periods of standing or when rising from a seated position.

Despite being an enigma in terms of its origin, plantar fasciitis is a common affliction among runners and those who are considered overweight.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis (uh·ki·leezten·duh·nai·tuhs) occurs when the muscle that links your calf to your heel becomes inflamed and tender in close proximity to the base of your foot.

The calf contains two sizeable muscles that are responsible for the power behind pushing off with your foot or rising up on your toes.

The sizable Achilles tendon connects the muscles to your heel, allowing you to push down with your foot. When moving anywhere – whether it’s walking, running, or jumping – this powerful tendon helps get you there.

Treatment for heel pain

Treatment depends entirely on the root cause of your heel pain. If you are unsure of your diagnosis or how severe your condition is, be sure to seek medical advice before beginning any treatment plan.

Rest

resting feet to relieve heel pain

For more intense cases of heel pain, like a bruise on the heel, simply abstaining from whatever activity caused it may be sufficient to alleviate the discomfort. For instance, break away from running or extended standing/walking for several days.

Additionally, elevating the leg can be beneficial.

Related: Uncovering the Causes of Heel Pain: A Practical Guide to Differential Diagnosis

Ice Application

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To reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort from the majority of heel pain, wrap an ice pack in a thin towel and place it over your heel for 20-minute intervals up to four times daily. Doing so may help to ease your suffering!

Taping

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Taping the foot with either sports or hypoallergenic tape is an effective remedy for several heel diagnoses such as plantar fasciitis, heel pad bruise, and heel pad syndrome.

To treat plantar fasciitis, your healthcare provider may suggest applying a taping technique with four strips of tape around the foot and heel. Note that they should be applied in a way that isn’t too tight as they can remain secure for up to one week.

Immobilization

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Numerous acute Achilles tendon ruptures are effectively treated by immobilizing the limb in a cast with the toes pointing downward.

To heal other injuries, a removable orthopedic boot may be used to stabilize the ankle and restrict movements of the foot.

Related: 9 Best Home Remedies for Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis

Exercise and Physical Therapy

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Some proactive steps, like stretching and exercising the tissues that encase your heel bone, can be taken to reduce pain quickly. By performing these simple exercises twice daily – once in the morning and again at night – you will likely experience a noticeable improvement in comfort levels.

If you are diagnosed with Achilles tendonitis, your healthcare provider may refer you to a physical therapist who will use the Alfredson protocol. This specialized exercise program is designed to strengthen and condition the Achilles tendon through eccentric exercises that involve contracting and stretching of supporting muscles simultaneously.

Footwear Modification

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Depending on the source of your heel affliction, your medical practitioner may suggest a range of foot supports.

Pertaining to plantar fasciitis, your physician may suggest you wear a splint at night in order to maintain correct foot alignment. Moreover, wearing supportive shoes that provide both arch and heel support can make all the difference in your recovery time. Investing in comfortable yet reliable footwear will prove beneficial for any long-term relief of this painful condition.

To aid in the healing of Achilles tendonitis, your doctor may suggest heel wedges or shoe orthotics.

To treat Haglund’s syndrome, your healthcare provider may advise you to adjust the heel height of your shoes.

Pain Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are an effective tool to address pain caused by plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, Haglund’s syndrome, heel pad issues, and sinus tarsi syndrome. With its proven track record of effectiveness in treating a range of conditions related to the lower extremities and foot anatomy, NSAIDs provide quick relief from uncomfortable symptoms associated with these ailments.

When it comes to intense heel agony, like that brought about by a broken heel bone, opioid drugs may be prescribed for just a brief period of time

At times, to reduce pain in the heel area, a steroid known as cortisone might be injected. Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory and has been proven to offer temporary relief.

Surgery

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For the majority of causes of heel pain, surgery is typically only suggested if other more conservative approaches fail to bring relief in a span ranging from six to twelve months.

Individuals suffering from plantar fasciitis may undergo a procedure to surgically detach their plantar fascia from the heel bone called a ‘plantar fascia release.’ Additionally, another technique known as gastrocnemius resection can be used which involves lengthening the calf muscle in order to reduce pain associated with this condition.

How to prevent heel pain

Proactive measures are the best way to avoid recurring plantar fasciitis. Here are some steps you can take today in order to ensure that it doesn’t come back again.

  • Choose the right pair of shoes.
  • Investigate using supportive shoe inserts if needed.
  • Shed those extra pounds.
  • Keep fit with gentle activities like walking, biking, swimming, and yoga.
  • Make sure to stretch your foot and calf.

Conclusion

In conclusion, heel pain can be caused by various conditions related to the foot and ankle, but it can be treated or prevented with a combination of physical therapy, exercise, footwear modifications, medications, and surgery. By following the advice given by your healthcare provider or physical therapist you will likely find relief from this sometimes debilitating condition. With proper care and treatment, heel pain can be managed and long-term discomfort avoided.

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