Heel pain is regularly caused by an inflammation in the foot called Plantar Fasciitis, which may also be referred to as heel spur syndrome if a heel spur is found. Additional causes of heel pain may be tendonitis, nerve irritation, arthritis, a stress fracture, and in rare occurrences cysts.
Due to the many potential causes of heel pain, a proper diagnosis is crucial. Seeking a Podiatrist for an examination is very important in order to properly discover the reason for your heel pain.
The Plantar Fascia is a band of tissue that is connected at the heel and toes at the bottom of the foot. Plantar Fasciitis is the condition resulting from the fascia becoming inflamed and irritated which results in pain in the heel.
Plantar Fasciitis most commonly occurs due to poor structure of the bones in the feet. People with arch issues, high arches or overtly flat arches have a higher potential to develop plantar fasciitis.
The strain on the plantar fascia from footwear with a lack of support worn on flat, hard surfaces can also lead to plantar fasciitis. As well overuse of the feet and obesity are also contributors to plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis has the following symptoms:
Heel pain at the bottom of the foot
Pain in the heel and or arch early in the morning
Developing pain over several months
Heel swelling on the bottom of the foot
Pain from plantar fasciitis is often reported as worse in the morning and after long periods of sitting. The pain will typically decrease after walking for a few minutes due to the fascia stretching out.
After obtaining your medical history and performing an examination of your foot, your Podiatrist will make a proper diagnosis of your foot pain. During this process, the podiatrist will make certain that your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another condition.
X-rays and other imaging techniques are sometimes used to determine different causes of heel pain. Heel spurs are found on occasion in plantar fasciitis patients, however, they are not often the cause of pain. If heel spurs are found it may result in a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome.
Initial treatment of plantar fasciitis can be started at home:
Stretching - Exercises that stretch out the calf muscles help ease pain and assist with recovery.
No barefoot walking - Unnecessary stress and strain are placed on the plantar fascia when you walk without shoes.
Ice - Inflammation may be reduced by icing your heel for at least 20 minutes multiple times a day. Make certain to never apply ice directly to the skin. Always use a covered ice pack or towel to avoid damaging your skin.
Reduce activities - Rest your heels by reducing activity that may stress your heels and feet.
Changes to shoes - Stress on the plantar fasciitis may be reduced by wearing shoes with good arch support and a slightly raised heel.
Anti-inflammatory medication - Your podiatrist may recommend an oral anti-inflammatory. Often ibuprofen is suggested to reduce inflammation and pain.
In the case of continued pain, your podiatrist may utilize additional treatments:
Taping and strapping - Taping and or strapping the heel area may help support the plantar fascia.
Custom Orthotics - In order to correct the structural challenges which may be the underlying cause of plantar fasciitis, custom orthotics are often used to help create support.
Injection therapies - Pain relief and anti-inflammation may be reduced by corticosteroid injections.
Walking cast (Removable)- For proper rest and healing, your podiatrist may prescribe a removable walking cast.
Splint (Night use) - Often morning pain is relieved by the use of a splint worn at night overnight.This allows for the plantar fascia to be properly extended and stretched while sleeping
Physical therapy. Dependant on your specific needs, your podiatrist may recommend specific exercises and even physical therapy.
Is Surgery Necessary?
In most instances, patients experiencing plantar fasciitis will see great results from nonsurgical treatments. Dependant on the severity of the individual condition, some patients may require surgery. After the proper application of non-surgical treatments and the appropriate time, if you still experience heel pain, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. This usually consists of ligament release and may or may not require excision of the spur. The best course of approach and specific surgical options will be discussed with your podiatrist.
Regardless of the treatment and the success you experience with your podiatrist, the possible causes which resulted in your plantar fasciitis may still exist in your feet and lifestyle. Ongoing preventative measure will be needed on a daily basis. Proper footwear, orthotics, and exercise are the keys to lifetime success in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.