Heel Painfulness

Overview

Pain On The Heel

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia, a band of tough tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes, becomes irritated or inflamed. Heel pain, worst in the morning when getting out of bed, is the most common symptom. Arch pain may also be present. Heel spurs are abnormal growths of bone on the bottom of the heel bone that may be caused by an abnormal gait, posture or walking, inappropriate shoes, or certain activities, like running. Spurs may cause foot pain while walking or standing. Although one in 10 people has heel spurs, only one in 20 of these people will have foot pain. Heel spurs can occur in people with plantar fasciitis, but they do not cause plantar fasciitis. People with flat feet or high arches are more likely to have foot pain from heel spurs.

Causes

Many things can cause heel pain. Most commonly seen at our Troy, MI office are heel spurs, which are small growths on the heel bone. Heel pain can be caused from heavy activities and increased weight that put extra pressure on feet. Dr. Weinert often treats heel pain in athletes, runners and women who are pregnant. There are other cases where Dr. Weinert has related a patient?s heel pain to arthritis, stress fractures, fractures, bone tumors, cysts, achilles tendonitis and Haglund's deformity. The main cause of heel pain is usually a biomechanical problem in the foot and it?s, in a nutshell, having a foot out of alignment. There are numerous conditions. One of the most prevalent is called talotarsal dislocation syndrome. What that is in lay terms is you?ve just got a misalignment of your ankle on your heel and as you bear weight you?re getting a collapse of the ankle on the heel causing the foot to be out of alignment. So the plantar fascia, bones, joints, and ligaments receive constant stress. This stress occurs at the point where the plantar fascia (the major tissue that connects your toes to your heel) meets the heel. Many patients explain the pain as being in the middle of the inside of the heel. As a patient bears weight, they get the collapse of the foot and that ligament pulls. And if you think of a rubber band constantly getting pulled on that area of the insertion on the heel, you eventually start getting some micro tears in that ligament and causing inflammation and pain specifically right there in middle area of the heel. Plantar fasciitis is also a common source of heel pain. The plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes, can become strained and inflamed due to overuse and wear and tear. This band of tissue can only withstand so much pressure and when it gives way, the pain can be severe and requires immediate and effective treatment.

Symptoms

The primary symptom is pain in the heel area that varies in severity and location. The pain is commonly intense when getting out of bed or a chair. The pain often lessens when walking.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will listen to your complaints about your heel and examine you to see what is causing the pain, and whether anything else has started it off. If the cause of your pain seems obvious, your doctor may be happy to start treatment straight away. However, some tests may be helpful in ruling out other problems. Blood tests may be done for arthritis. An Xray will show any arthritis in the ankle or subtalar joint, as well as any fracture or cyst in the calcaneum. (It will also show a spur if you have one, but as we know this is not the cause of the pain.) Occasionally a scan may be used to help spot arthritis or a stress fracture.

Non Surgical Treatment

Orthotics, by treating the cause of the problem, lead to the cure bette than 90% of the time. A small number of patients have waited so long that the plantar fascia has become thickened and filled with scar tissue and are not helped by ?conventional? means. Those are the patients that have, traditionally, required surgical treatment in which the plantar fascia is cut off the heel bone. Luckily, most surgery has been replaced by a relatively new mode of treatment, ESWT or Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy. ESWT involves the application of multiple shockwaves to the diseased tendon or ligament and has an approximately 85 to 90% success rate. Keep in mind we are talking about this success rate in patients who are ?tough cases,? that is, already had the conventional treatment. The ESWT machines look like miniature renal lithtripsors (kidney stone crushers). There are virtually no side effects to ESWT other than the price as only about 30% of insurance companies are paying for it. They realize that it is less costly and safer than surgery but also know that many more people who would avoid surgery would have no problem getting ESWT so the volume of services would go up. You don?t have to live with painful heels.

Surgical Treatment

It is rare to need an operation for heel pain. It would only be offered if all simpler treatments have failed and, in particular, you are a reasonable weight for your height and the stresses on your heel cannot be improved by modifying your activities or footwear. The aim of an operation is to release part of the plantar fascia from the heel bone and reduce the tension in it. Many surgeons would also explore and free the small nerves on the inner side of your heel as these are sometimes trapped by bands of tight tissue. This sort of surgery can be done through a cut about 3cm long on the inner side of your heel. Recently there has been a lot of interest in doing the operation by keyhole surgery, but this has not yet been proven to be effective and safe. Most people who have an operation are better afterwards, but it can take months to get the benefit of the operation and the wound can take a while to heal fully. Tingling or numbness on the side of the heel may occur after operation.

heel cups for heel pain

Prevention

Painful Heel

Flexibility is key when it comes to staving off the pain associated with these heel conditions. The body is designed to work in harmony, so stretching shouldn?t be concentrated solely on the foot itself. The sympathetic tendons and muscles that move the foot should also be stretched and gently exercised to ensure the best results for your heel stretches. Take the time to stretch thighs, calves and ankles to encourage healthy blood flow and relaxed muscle tension that will keep pain to a minimum. If ice is recommended by a doctor, try freezing a half bottle of water and slowly rolling your bare foot back and forth over it for as long as is comfortable. The use of elastic or canvas straps to facilitate stretching of an extended leg can also be helpful when stretching without an assistant handy. Once cleared by a doctor, a daily regimen of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like Naproxen Sodium will keep pain at bay and increase flexibility in those afflicted by heel pain. While this medication is not intended to act as a substitute for medical assessments, orthopedics or stretching, it can nonetheless be helpful in keeping discomfort muted enough to enjoy daily life. When taking any medication for your heel pain, be sure to follow directions regarding food and drink, and ask your pharmacist about possible interactions with existing medications or frequent activities.
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