Heel Pain

Chronic heel pain is one of the most common foot conditions presented at clinics across the world. More often than not, heel pain is in close correlation with plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a corrupt phrase to encompass all conditions occurring around the heel and arch; it can be misused.

One of the most common causes of heel pain is Plantar Fasciitis. This condition involves inflammation of the thick band of tissue that stretches between the heel bone and toes, which is called the plantar fascia.

Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing pain. Pain usually occurs in the morning when you first get up and move around. However, the pain normally diminishes with continued movement. Long periods of sitting or standing can trigger the pain to come back. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that is poorly understood, but it often effects runners and people who are overweight.

But that is not to say that plantar fasciitis is the only cause of heel pain, there are several other etiological causes for heel pain: a stress fracture, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve irritation, bursitis, achilles or flexor tendonitis, bone oedema, or a cyst.

Podiatrists are foot specialists and are responsible for getting to the bottom of your chronic heel pain – it is critical to understand the cause before deciding on a treatment plan. A comprehensive examination is carried out, the foot structure and anatomy are examined concerning the ankle and lower limb. The positioning and function of the feet are observed on sitting, standing and during gait – taking care to see whether or not it fits into average parameters of alignment and movement.

Chronic heel pain often has an insidious agenda; the structural misalignment of the foot usually leads to poor mechanical functioning. Suppose structures are put under repetitive strain for a prolonged period of time. In this case, something will inevitably give way, and there is almost always a trigger as to why the foot can no longer compensate for a mechanical issue. Returning from a hot summer holiday will frequently provoke heel pain as you are swapping your firm,  comfortable shoes for flat sandals.

Some of the most common heel pain treatments are:

  • Rest and ice
  • Supportive and corrective insoles and orthotics
  • Tapping heel
  • Heel lift
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Changing footwear
  • Stretching and massaging the sole

Pain in the heel is self-limiting. However, it can slowly resolve if treated correctly, although treatment times can vary ranging from a few weeks to several months. If it has been suggested that orthotics are the correct form of treatment, you must remember not to disregard them so soon as your pain can wind itself up again.

One of the most effective forms of treatment is extracorporeal shockwave therapy. This uses a device that delivers loud audible mechanical low-frequency shockwaves into the painful heel area, allowing healing to be stimulated. Shockwave therapy creates inflammation. This may sound very daunting; however, inflammation is required to trigger a healing cascade in this case.

ESWT provides an analgesic approach on painful heels, thereby allowing pain relief to patients and improved weight-bearing to assist the feet in everyday functioning. Heel pain often occurs because of compensatory abnormal weight-bearing. This exacerbates the problem, a common etiological reason for plantar fasciitis. Shockwave therapy can be combined with low-level laser therapy for optimal pain relief.

Who is most at risk of heel pain?

Heel pain can affect anyone without any major obvious causes. some factors that could increase your risk of developing heel pain include:

Age – This is because people in the 40-60 age range are most susceptible to Plantar fasciitis which is a common form of heel pain.
Certain types of exercise – If you are an avid runner, ballet dancer or someone that plays any form of sport that requires an explosive type of movement like football or kickboxing, you may be adding to the onset of heel pain These activities can put a lot of strain on your heels and attached tissue.
Foot mechanics – Flat feet, a high arch or an atypical pattern of walking are all reasons that are explanations for the added stress on your heel.
Obesity – The excess weight that you carry around can be tough on your heels and can apply more pressure to your feet in general.
Occupations – Jobs that keep you on your feet for extended periods of time. Factory workers, teachers and others that spend a significant amount of time standing or walking on hard surfaces, can often experience more heel and foot pain than others.

A podiatrist, such as ourselves, will be able to determine what the etiological factors are for obstinate heel pain. Furthermore, podiatrists can administer a suitable treatment plan to suit you, ensuring they give their all in an efficient diagnosis.