Causes of Heel Pain

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What Could Be Causing Your Heel Pain?

Do you ever find yourself walking on your toes because it’s too painful to plant your heel? Has your heel been sore for a while, but you just aren’t sure what’s causing the pain? Here’s a quick look at some of the causes of heel pain, why they occur, and how to treat them.

The Most Common Causes of Heel Pain

The most common causes of heel pain are Achilles tendinitis (back of the heel) and plantar fasciitis (bottom of the heel).

  • Achilles tendinitis is an injury caused by the overuse of the Achilles tendon (the band of tissue that connects the calf muscle at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone). Achilles tendinitis is caused by repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon; but the structure of the Achilles tendon also weakens with age, making it more susceptible to injury.
    Symptoms: The associated pain usually begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or other sports activities. More severe pain may occur after prolonged running, stair climbing, or sprinting.
    Treatment: Achilles tendinitis usually responds well to self-care measures. However, if your symptoms are severe or persistent, your doctor may suggest other treatment options, such as: over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy exercises, orthotic devices, or surgery.
  • Plantar fasciitis commonly causes a stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. The pain usually decreases once your foot limbers up, but may return after long periods of standing or sitting. Plantar fasciitis is common in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear unsupportive shoes.
    Symptoms: Pain and inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes.
    Treatment: Most people can recover with conservative treatments after a few months. In some cases, your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as: pain medications, physical therapy, night splints, orthotics, steroid shots, stem cell injections, or surgery.

Other Causes of Heel Pain

Some less common causes of heel pain include:

  • Bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when the bursae (small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons, and muscles near joints) are inflamed.
    Symptoms: When the affected joint feels achy or stiff, hurts more when you move it or press on it, or looks swollen and red.
    Treatment:
    Involves conservative measures (rest, ice, and pain relievers). Other treatment options include: medication, therapy, injections, assistive devices, and surgery.
  • Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that usually affects the feet of people who have diabetes.
    Symptoms: Fever or chills; irritability or lethargy (in young children); pain in the infected area; and swelling, warmth, and redness over the infected area.
    Treatment:
    The most common treatment is surgery, followed by antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the infection, surgery may include: draining of the infected area, removing diseased bone and tissue, restoring blood flow to the bone, removing any foreign objects, or amputating the limb.
  • Peripheral neuropathy is the result of damage to your peripheral nerves that can often cause weakness, numbness, and pain. It can be caused by traumatic injuries, injections, metabolic problems, inherited causes, and exposure to toxins.
    Symptoms: Numbness, prickling, or tingling; sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing, or burning pain; extreme sensitivity to touch; lack of coordination and falling; and muscle weakness or paralysis.
    Treatment:
    Medications (pain relievers, anti-seizure medications, topical treatments, and antidepressants), therapies (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, plasma exchange and intravenous immune globulin, physical therapy, and surgery), or alternative medicine (acupuncture, alpha-lipoic acid, herbs, and amino acids).
  • Reactive arthritis is joint pain and swelling triggered by an infection in another part of your body (usually the intestines, genitals, or urinary tract).
    Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, eye inflammation, urinary problems, and swollen toes or fingers.
    Treatment:
    Physical therapy or medications, such as: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, or rheumatoid arthritis drugs.
  • Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone that are caused by the repetitive application of force (jumping up and down or running long distances).
    Symptoms: Mild or severe pain that worsens over time, and swelling.
    Treatment: Reduce bone’s weight-bearing load until the fractures are healed. You may need to wear a walking boot, brace, or use crutches. Surgery may be required, although that is not common.

Contact Your Doctor

The first step to knowing what is causing your heel pain is to consult with an experienced doctor, so that you can get a proper diagnosis. Be sure to consult with Dr. Vikki and Dr/ Connie today. With years of collective experience in their fields, they will be able to help you get to the bottom of your foot pain.