How To Treat Heel Pain
Heel pain can range from being a minor nuisance to nearly debilitating, changing our daily lives and activities. While this condition can be a common complaint among our patients, there are a number of causes of this discomfort, and treatment must be directed at the specific cause.
The spur itself is a calcium deposit, and can often be seen on x-ray. This deposit takes many months or years to appear, and is usually related to repetitive stress and strain on foot ligaments, particularly in athletes engaging in running and jumping, but obesity and the excessive weight can play a role. The plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue running from the calcaneus to the ball of the foot, and is very important in the mechanics of our foot movement and transmitting weight. If this tissue becomes inflamed, known as plantar fasciitis, it causes a painful heel/foot, often worse in the early morning upon waking (often a sharp, sticking pain), with some improvement throughout the day as it is stretched out, and returning after long periods of standing or walking. This pain is often described as a “stone bruise.”
During your assessment, your doctor will examine the foot, and potentially request x-rays of the foot in order to delineate between other causes of heel pain, including Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, a compressed nerve, tarsal tunnel syndrome, or retrocalcaneal bursitis. Your physician will then determine how best to treat the pain. Treatment can range from non-invasive attempts to reduce stress on the ligaments to injections or even to surgery.
• Rest – this helps alleviate the inflammation and pain.
• Ice – helps to control pain.
• NSAIDS/Anti-inflammatory medications (Advil/Aleve/Tylenol) – to control pain.
•Exercises/stretching/physical therapy – relax the tissues around the heel bone and improve pain.
• Shoe inserts/orthotic devices – help decrease pain with activity and improve foot mechanics.
• Night splinting – keeps the heel stretched during sleep and less painful upon waking.
• PRP Injections – A natural method of treatment using your own blood to promote healing.
If other methods have not been beneficial, the orthopedic surgeon may consider releasing this tight plantar fascia, in a plantar fascial release, and removing the spur, if present.
Click here to read about some of the most common causes of foot and ankle pain!
Dr. Meredith Warner is the creator of Well Theory and The Healing Sole. She is a board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Air Force Veteran.
She is on a mission to disrupt traditional medicine practices and promote betterment physically, spiritually and mentally to many more people. She advocates for wellness and functional health over big pharma so more people can age vibrantly with more function and less pain.
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