There can be several different reasons why a person experiences heel pain. One of the most common causes is a condition called plantar fasciitis. This occurs when the plantar fascia, a long band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, becomes inflamed. In terms of the anatomy of the foot, the plantar fascia plays the important part of supporting the arch and aiding in walking.
Causes & Symptoms
Our feet experience a lot of wear and tear in the normal activities of day to day life. While the plantar fascia is designed to absorb shock and stresses, it can sometimes become damaged and torn if an abundant amount of pressure is placed upon it. After repetitive straining, the result is inflammation and irritation which causes the heel to ache. Typically, plantar fasciitis tends to affect just one foot, but in some cases both feet can be affected.
- Dull to stabbing pain on the bottom of the foot at the heel
- Pain that occurs after exercise or activity
- Stiffness of the heel
- Pain after standing for a long period of time
- Pain within the first steps taken after waking, or following rest
Risk Factors Associated With Plantar Fasciitis
There are several different factors that can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis. Having a job that keeps a person on their feet a lot, whether it be standing or walking, can cause the stress and damage that results in the condition.
Those who frequently engage in athletic activities such as running and dancing, can also be at greater risk. Other common links are patients with certain forms of arthritis, and pregnant women who experience this heel pain, due to the weight gain and increased pressure. Additional possible factors can include the following:
- Issues with foot mechanics: The way feet work can also lead to an onset of the condition. Factors such as flat feet, high arches, or tight tendons can strain the ligament. Abnormal walking patterns can affect weight distribution and result in added stress.
- Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that don’t fit right or provide enough arch support, especially on hard surfaces, can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
- Obesity: Excess weight puts an added amount of stress on the plantar fascia and can cause damage.
In order for your foot doctor to diagnosis plantar fasciitis, Dr.Vikki will need to review your medical history and any symptoms that you may be feeling. This will include inquiring about the location of the pain and when it occurs. Your foot will be physically examined and you may be asked to stand and/or walk, as a part of the evaluation.
If another cause of heel or foot pain is suspected, x-rays or a MRI scan may be ordered. Bone fractures, cysts, and other foot problems can be revealed through these methods.
In most cases, plantar fasciitis can be treated in conservative ways, without the need for surgery. Reducing inflammation and allowing tears to heal are key goals in treating the condition and relieving pain. Initially, at home methods can work to provide relief for certain individuals. These forms of treatment can include:
- Stretching- Trying simple exercises such as toe and calf stretches.
- Resting- Reducing the amount of strenuous physical activities.
- Changing footwear– Making modifications to shoe choices and wearing those which provide more arch support. Avoiding going barefoot can also be beneficial.
- Applying ice- Putting ice on the heel for 20 minutes or so, multiple times a day, can help to reduce inflammation. Ice should not be directly applied to the skin. A thin towel or pillowcase should be placed over the skin before ice is placed on it.
If your pain still persists after several weeks with these at-home approaches, your foot doctor may recommend additional treatments. These treatments can involve orthotics, which can be customized for your foot, and can aid in even pressure distribution. Other recommendations include the use of night splints, physical therapy, or other approaches.
A type of Minimally invasive heel pain treatment from TenexHealth.com is available at Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center. This method allows patients to quickly return to their activities and enjoy more rapid recovery times.
Although fairly rare, surgery is another possible option for some patients with plantar fasciitis and severe, persistent pain. If this is the case, the surgery will involve making a cut that releases the plantar fascia from the heel bone to relieve tension. During the recovery process, the patient may need to use crutches for several weeks as the foot heals.
Visit your Foot Doctor to Relieve Pain
Heel pain from plantar fasciitis can be difficult and impact your lifestyle and involvement in activities. However, it can be relieved with simple changes and techniques, and without the need for more invasive measures.
If the pain continues, it’s best to visit your Long Beach foot doctor in order to clearly diagnose the problem and set forth a precise plan for treatment. Our board certified podiatrists stress education and conservative care, and take great pride in helping patients get happier and healthier feet. Contact our Long Beach office today, if you have any questions or if your would like to set up an appointment for your heel or foot pain.