Heel pain can be caused by a number of disorders, but it more commonly results from conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Heel pain can usually be treated successfully with conservative treatments, but if the pain becomes worse or fails to improve, further investigation is recommended.
Sometimes, heel pain may develop without an obvious cause, but certain factors can increase your chances of developing heel pain, such as:
- Exercising too much
- Increasing exercise intensity too fast
- Exercising with tight calves or heels
- Overstretching the sole of the foot
- Wearing shoes that are too tight or provide little to no support or cushioning
- Occupations or hobbies that involve a lot of time on your feet
- Age-related degeneration
Plantar fasciitis can cause significant pain around the heel and arch of the foot. It is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia – the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. Pain is often worse in the morning and after long periods of standing. It may be difficult to raise the toes of the affected foot. Pain may ease when exercising but return after resting. Plantar fasciitis can cause heel spurs, which are small calcium deposits that cause a bony protrusion at the bottom of the heel.
Pain associated with Achilles tendonitis affects the band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone – the Achilles tendon. The pain usually starts as a dull ache in the back of the leg and around the heel, particularly after running or playing sports. The area may also feel tender or stiff, more so in the morning, and may improve with light activity. The condition occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated and inflamed, usually from repetitive strain, overuse, and degeneration. Serious cases of Achilles tendonitis can lead to tendon tears, which may require surgery.
Heel pain may also be caused by conditions such as:
- Achilles tendon tear injury
- A stress fracture
- Peripheral neuropathy
Diagnosis and Treatment for Heel Pain
Treatment for heel pain will depend on the type of condition and severity of symptoms. For minor conditions, self-care treatments may be all that is necessary to alleviate symptoms. For ongoing heel pain or if self-care treatments are not helping, you should visit your doctor.
Visit your doctor immediately if you have severe pain and swelling, are unable to bend your foot or walk properly, have heel pain accompanied by other symptoms such as a fever, or numbness or tingling in the heel.
Heel pain caused by conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis can often be treated with conservative methods, including R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and pain relief medications:
- Rest and activity restriction for several days can help relieve symptoms – particularly avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms and make the pain worse.
- Elevating the affected foot and compression with an elasticated bandage or wrap can help to reduce swelling and limit movement associated with Achilles tendonitis.
- Regularly applying an ice pack can also help to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. Ice can be applied every 2-3 hours but for no longer than 20 minutes at a time, and should be stopped if any numbness occurs. Rolling your foot over a cold/frozen water bottle can also help to soothe plantar fasciitis pain.
- Pain relief medications, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help to ease painful symptoms and reduce inflammation.
Orthotic insoles can also help to prevent and improve heel pain caused by conditions such as plantar fasciitis. They help to position feet correctly and provide cushioning and support. Custom-made orthotics can be prescribed by a podiatrist to treat specific issues such as a gait or structural problem.
An ultrasound-guided injection, such as a steroid injection, may be recommended to provide long-lasting pain relief and to help improve function. Ultrasound ensures the injection is administered at the target area in order to relieve symptoms successfully.
Physical therapy can help relieve many conditions causing the heel pain, particularly those that are caused by tight muscles in the feet and calves. Exercise can help stretch and strengthen the plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendon, and increase flexibility in the calf muscles to relieve pain and tightness. Physical therapy may include:
- Manual therapy such as joint mobilization
- Guided stretching, strength and endurance exercises
- Hot and cold therapy
- Electrical muscle stimulation
If heel pain doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended. The type of surgery you require will depend on your particular condition but may include
- Minimally-invasive arthroscopic surgery to diagnose, and treat problems relating to the ankle joint
- Achilles tendon repair surgery to reattach a torn Achilles tendon
- Fracture repair surgery
- Surgery to relieve pressure from a nerve, remove a heel spur, or treat an inflamed tendon
Heel Pain Treatment Near Me in North Dakota
If you have heel pain, speak with the board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic physicians at The Bone & Joint Center. Our compassionate providers specialize in all aspects of surgical and nonsurgical care to effectively treat many foot and ankle disorders.