Heel pain is, almost certainly, the No. 1 painful foot condition we see in our office. The heel is the largest of your foot’s 26 bones, and it absorbs the initial impact of every step you take. Although it’s built to endure quite a bit, it has a tough job to do, and that means many if not most of us will deal with an episode of significant heel pain at least once in our lives.
The good news? Heel pain is very treatable, and in most cases can be done effectively without surgery, depending on the cause. Seeking a podiatrist like Dr. Corey Fox during the early stages of discomfort can help you isolate a cause and give you the best possible chance at quick relief.
The Many Causes of Heel Pain
Most cases of heel pain can be attributed to mechanical issues, specifically overuse. Nonetheless, there are many possible conditions and causes that can lead to discomfort. Some of the most common include:
Plantar Fasciitis. This condition is caused by stretching and tearing of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that supports your arch and connects the heel to the toes. Pain is usually worst under the heel, and may be most intense in the first 10-15 minutes after getting out of bed.
Heel Spurs. Chronic plantar fasciitis or other stretching and tearing can lead to a buildup of calcium on the heel bone. These spurs can protrude forward as much as half an inch. They’re not always painful, but can be depending on size and location.
Achilles Tendinitis. Strain on the Achilles tendon over time can lead to tendinitis, and the back of the heel—where the tendon inserts into the heel bone—is a common trouble spot. Achilles tendinitis is especially common among middle-aged adults (particularly men) with a more active lifestyle.
Bursitis. Your joints contain fluid-filled sacs called bursae, which lubricate the surrounding structures and allow tendons, muscles, and bones to glide with minimal friction. These sacs, however, can become damaged or irritated. Swelling of the heel bursae is called retrocalcaneal bursitis, and is common for those who engage in repetitive impact activities like running and jumping.
Fractures. The heel bone is strong, but not invincible. Repeated overuse can cause tiny cracks called stress fractures to form, while a single traumatic accident (such as a car crash) may fracture the heel bone much more significantly.
Biomechanical Structures. Certain foot or leg shapes may make a person more susceptible to heel pain. These include overpronation, flat feet, or particularly tight calves, all of which can cause extra tugging and pulling on the heel as you walk and move.
Other causes might include arthritis, bruises, bone disorders, pinched nerves, or Haglund’s deformity (more commonly known as “pump bump.”) Heel pain in adolescents, particularly those going through a growth spurt, is commonly caused by Sever’s disease.
Treating Heel Pain
Once your doctor has determined the root cause (or causes) of your heel pain, a comprehensive treatment plan can be devised.
Common conservative treatments employed against a wide variety of heel pain conditions include rest, shoe modifications, inserts or custom orthotics, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is one of the more advanced treatments we provide at our office. This non-invasive devise uses sonic waves to energize your body’s own natural healing processes and improve vascularity. We also offer a state-of-the-art procedure called Topaz, a minimally invasive alternative to surgery that removes small amounts of diseased tissue through tiny, pinhole-sized incisions. Topaz is usually considered only if conventional conservative care fails to provide adequate results.
Dr. Corey Fox has been helping patients overcome their heel pain issues for more than 20 years. There’s no reason to keep suffering, and the earlier you seek help, the more likely that gentle, conservative treatments will get you back to living an active, pain-free lifestyle. To schedule an appointment at our Massapequa, NY office, dial 516-541-9000 today. You can also book online.