Does pain shoot through your heel every time you put weight on your foot? Heel pain is a very common complaint among people, but you don’t have to live in pain. To start though, we need to figure out what is causing the heel pain.
Causes of Heel Pain
From injury to overuse, heel pain can range from mild to discomfort to downright debilitating. But aside from an acute injury, there are a variety of reasons why people develop heel pain.
The plantar fascia is a thick, almost web-like, ligament that connects the front of your foot to your heel. Its main function is to support the arch of your foot, and act as a shock absorber when you walk or run.
If the plantar fascia becomes inflamed from overuse or injury, it can cause stiffness and heel pain. Although the most common reason people develop plantar fasciitis is overstretching or overuse, there are certain risk factors to consider as well.
Some of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- Wearing shoes with poor arch support or soft soles
- Being a long-distance runner
- Working on your feet all day long
- Weight gain from pregnancy
Pain from plantar fasciitis can be gradual or sudden in onset. Some people may develop pain or a burning sensation in the bottom of their foot that extends to the sole.
Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is what attaches the calf muscle to the calcaneus. Your Achilles tendon is used every time you walk, run or jump. Overuse or injury often causes the painful symptoms of Achilles tendinitis.
Common causes of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Improper stretching before exercise
- A sudden increase in physical activity without proper training
- Improper shoe gear including wearing high heels for extended periods of time
- Sports that put undue pressure on the heel like running and tennis
Some of the common signs of Achilles tendinitis include:
- Discomfort in the heel
- Stiffness and swelling in the Achilles tendon in the morning
- A sensation of warmth around the tendon and heel
- Limited range of motion with flexion of the toes
Heel spurs are a direct result of calcium deposits. These bone-like growths typically extend from the heel bone to the arch. Most heel spurs develop underneath or in the front of your heel. Over time, heel spurs can affect other parts of your foot.
Heel spurs are usually the result of ongoing ligament and muscle strain. They usually are gradual in onset and don’t appear immediately after intense physical activity.
In addition to wearing improper shoe gear, heel spurs may develop from:
- Obesity or weight gain from pregnancy
- Bruising of the heel
- Ongoing issues with gait
Some people who develop heel spurs also suffer from plantar fasciitis. Having plantar fasciitis can put you at higher risk of developing heel spurs as well.
Bursitis in the Heel
Heel bursitis is a painful condition that occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed. The bursa, which is located between the Achilles tendon and heel bone, is a small sac that acts as a lubricant and protects your bones from rubbing against muscles, tendons, or skin.
Heel bursitis is usually a direct result of overuse without proper conditioning. It’s often diagnosed in people who begin an intense exercise program that includes walking, running, and jumping.
While improper conditioning and poor-fitting shoe gear are leading causes of heel bursitis, this painful condition may affect people who also have:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Haglund’s deformity
- Psoriatic arthritis
- An infection
Pain behind the heel is the most common symptom of heel bursitis. However, you may also experience the following signs or symptoms:
- Swelling in the heel
- Pain when standing on your toes
- Warmth to the touch
- Possible skin discoloration
Sever’s Disease in Children
While heel pain in children usually isn’t a major cause of concern, there are times when an evaluation is warranted. Sever’s disease (calcaneal apophysitis), which causes intense heel pain, tenderness, and warmth, can happen in children who play competitive sports. Children to continually jump rope can also develop this painful condition.
Sever’s disease is most commonly diagnosed in children between the ages of 5 and 11 years old. Gradual or sudden heel pain is the primary symptom, children suffering from Sever’s disease can also experience:
- Pain with walking
- Inability to bear weight on the affected heel
- Tenderness when squeezing the foot
How to Treat Heel Pain?
Treatment starts with a proper diagnosis. Once made, there are several ways to treat heel pain. In addition to rest with ice and heat therapy, custom orthotics may be recommended. Custom orthotics, either functional or accommodative, are made to fit the contour of your foot.
Laser therapy is another effective treatment for heel pain. This regenerative medical treatment is effective in treating both acute and ongoing heel pain.
Contact Us Today for Help with Your Heel Pain
If you’re suffering from heel pain, we can help. Contact Midwest Podiatry to schedule an appointment with one of our expert podiatrists. As always, we’re also happy to answer any questions you have or tell you more about our services.