Heel pain is one of the most common conditions treated by podiatrists. Pain is often a message from the body that something is in need of medical attention.
Who Gets Heel Pain
The greatest incidence of heel pain is seen in middle-aged men and women. It is also seen in those who take part in regular sporting activities, those who are significantly overweight and those on their feet continually.
The Cause of Heel Pain
While heel pain has many causes, it is usually the result of faulty biomechanics (abnormalities in the way we walk). This creates too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues attached to it.
The stress may also result from injury, a bruise while walking, running or jumping on hard surfaces, wearing poorly constructed or old shoes or being significantly overweight.
Systemic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes can also contribute to heel pain.
Common Complications That Cause Heel Pain
Both heel pain and heel spurs are associated with degeneration of the long band of tissue that connects the heel and the ball of the foot (the plantar fascia). The role of the plantar fascia is to limit the flattening out of the foot. With excessive pronation (rolling in) the foot flattens, which strains the plantar fascia and leads to degeneration. Inflammation of this area is called plantar fasciitis.
Heel spurs are a bony growth under the heel bone. About 10% of people with heel spurs have no pain associated. Heel spurs result from strain of the muscles in the foot in much the same was as the plantar fascia is strained.
Other causes of heel pain
Excessive rolling in of the feet
An inflamed bursa (bursitis) small sack of fluid at the back of the heel
A neuroma (nerve growth)
Other soft tissue growths
Enlarged back of the heel bone
Bruises or stress fractures of the heel bone.
Treatment of Heel Pain
Rest – activity should be limited to those which are unlikely to aggravate the injured site such as swimming and cycling.
Heat – Heat will help the regeneration of the damaged tissue and will also help to reduce pain involved with the injury. Heat should be applied for 10 minutes 3 times per day for the first 72hrs. Ice can also be applied following activity.
Strapping – helps to rest the injured site without limiting your activity. Strapping is also used to temporarily correct any mechanical abnormality in foot function. If strapping has reduced the amount of heel pain then an orthotic can be used as permanent measure.
Stretching & Strengthening – stretching of the calf muscle group helps to relieve the tension on the plantar fascia in walking and at rest by allowing the foot to function properly.
Orthotics – used when there is a mechanical deformity in the bony structure of the foot (usually rolling in). Orthotics balance the foot which allows it to function more efficiently which relieves the strain on the plantar fascia.
Physiotherapy – some cases of heel pain require physiotherapy treatment.
Night Splints – used to stretch the calf muscle groups while you sleep. These are used if conventional stretching is ineffective.
Cortisone Injection – usually used in long standing cases of heel pain that have responded poorly to the above treatments
Surgery – is used when all of the above treatments have failed to relieve pain in the heel. This usually involves removing the plantar fascia from the heel bone.
Your recovery will depend on the cause of your heel pain and your individual health. If you are suffering with heel spur or plantar fasciitis, it normally takes about 6 to 8 week weeks for a healthy individual to recover. This of course depends on the duration the condition has been untreated for. In a small number of cases conservative treatment of plantar fasciitis is unsuccessful and cortisone injections followed by surgery may be necessary.
For any more information please contact our clinic On 5504 7000.