It was just another day. You were getting out of bed and starting your morning routine, when suddenly, you have pain in your heel. And it doesn’t seem to go away as the day wears on—in fact, the more you move around, the more it hurts! There are several different potential causes of heel pain when walking. Let’s review some of the most common we diagnose at Massapequa Podiatry Associates, and provide some treatment solutions.
7 Causes of Heel Pain When Walking
1. Plantar Fasciitis
This is the most common cause of heel pain. Around 2 million people per year experience this condition. Plantar fasciitis results from inflammation of the band of tissue that connects your toes to your heel. The pain is usually worse first thing in the morning or after you’ve been sitting or standing for a while.
2. Fat Pad Atrophy
Some people have naturally thinner fat pads on the bottoms of their feet. This lack of natural cushioning increases pressure on the heel, resulting in discomfort.
3. Achilles Tendinitis
As the largest tendon in the body—connecting the calf to the heel bone—an inflamed Achilles causes you to feel not only pain but also stiffness. So people with Achilles tendinitis might also notice a decrease in the range of motion in their foot and ankle. Their heel might also be swollen and tender to the touch.
4. Stress Fracture
This condition occurs when a small crack develops in one or more bones of the foot and heel as a result of suddenly increasing activity intensity or duration.
This disease is the result of foot joint inflammation. People with flat feet are at increased risk for chronic foot inflammation leading to arthritis. Arthritis generally affects the middle of the foot, but it can also cause heel pain. Ankle injuries tend to cause arthritis in the foot as well.
6. Heel Bursitis
A bursa is a fibrous sac full of fluid at the back of your heel. It provides cushioning for your ligaments, muscles, and bones. If there’s too much pressure on the heel, this sac becomes inflamed and causes heel pain while walking.
7. Heel Spurs
These bony protrusions are calcium deposits that form on the heel. They generally occur as a secondary effect of other injuries and are common among athletes whose sports include a lot of running and jumping.
Professional Treatments for Heel Pain
The recommended treatment for your heel pain depends on the underlying condition. The doctors at Massapequa Podiatry Associates meet with patients to complete a thorough physical examination and learn about their medical history to properly diagnose and develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses the primary issue. Here are some of the solutions to your condition.
Tenex is an advanced technology we use in some cases as an alternative to surgical procedures for inflamed tendons. It uses ultrasound diagnostics to locate problems within the affected area. Once the foot is numbed, your podiatrist makes a tiny incision so that vibrations can gently break down and remove the damaged part of the tendon without impacting healthy tissue.
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT)
ESW, a non-invasive and effective approach, uses high-energy sound waves to treat plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. The recovery time from this treatment is minimal with only minor side effects, which may include mild pain, tingling, and bruising for a day or two after treatment.
MLS Laser Therapy
A variety of foot conditions are treated with laser therapy, including stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis. This is also a painless, non-invasive treatment option.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)
PRP uses a patient’s own blood platelets to stimulate healing and reduce pain. It’s an innovative, non-invasive option that can be used to treat plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and other issues.
While surgery may be necessary in some cases, the heel and ankle pain experts at Massapequa Podiatry Associates generally only recommend it when other options are unsuccessful. In most cases, there are better, less invasive treatments that can address the problem and not require the lengthy recovery time needed after surgery.
Home Care for Heel Pain
While you’re waiting to see a podiatrist and after you get home from your appointment, there are several steps you can take to make your pain more manageable.
Freezing a bottle or cup of water and rolling it along the bottom of the foot may provide some relief for certain conditions, including plantar fasciitis.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
An anti-inflammatory pain reliever can help relieve swelling, redness, and soreness.
Limiting your activity until you can see a doctor may make your condition temporarily less painful.
Change the surface
Exercising on a soft surface such as grass or a dirt track is easier on your feet than pavement. Anti-fatigue mats can also be used in areas where you most frequently stand.
Upgrade Your footwear
If your shoes are worn out or don’t offer good arch support, you may need to buy different shoes and consider custom orthotics. High heels and ballet flats aren’t recommended for people with heel pain.
The doctors at Massapequa Podiatry Associates in Long Island may also recommend some stretches that you can do to alleviate pain or recommend physical therapy.