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Do You Understand Heel Discomfort?

Overview

Feet Pain

Heel pain is common and has many causes. Typically, these problems are easily solved by rest or simple exercises. Pain may occur in two places - beneath or under the heel. Inflammation of tissues on the foot?s bottom produces pain beneath the heel. Common causes include bruises, injury to tissue connecting toes and heel bone (referred to as plantar fasciitis), or calcium deposits resulting from extended plantar fasciitis. Under-the-heel pain comes from inflammation where the Achilles tendon meets the heel bone.

Causes

Near the inflamed plantar fascia attachment, but not in it, some extra bone may form, producing a small "spur". In fact, it is a shelf of bone, not a sharp spur. These "heel spurs" are commoner in people with plantar fascitis, but they can be found in people with no heel pain. The heel spur is caused by the same process as the heel pain, but the spur is not itself the cause of the pain.

Symptoms

Usually worse with the first few steps in the morning or at the initial point of activity. The latter usually gets better with continued activity (squeaky hinge analogy). Walking, running, sprinting, hill running and jumping will increase the pain. Often, the natural response is to walk on the outside of the foot - in supination - to lessen the stress on the plantar fascia - resulting in new problems.

Diagnosis

To arrive at a diagnosis, the foot and ankle surgeon will obtain your medical history and examine your foot. Throughout this process the surgeon rules out all the possible causes for your heel pain other than plantar fasciitis. In addition, diagnostic imaging studies such as x-rays or other imaging modalities may be used to distinguish the different types of heel pain. Sometimes heel spurs are found in patients with plantar fasciitis, but these are rarely a source of pain. When they are present, the condition may be diagnosed as plantar fasciitis/heel spur syndrome.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment of plantar fasciitis is usually performed in stages according to the duration and degree of pain. Treatment may take many months if the condition has been longstanding. Treatment usually begins with anti-inflammatory medication, shoe modification, temporary limitation of activities, weight loss and heel cord stretching. Also, night splints are often helpful to stretch the plantar fascia. An arch support (orthotic) may also be helpful, especially if you have a flat foot. If the problem continues, the tender area occasionally may be injected with cortisone and a local anesthetic. For a difficult, chronic problem, a period of casting may be used to improve this condition. Surgical treatment is rarely needed. If performed, it aims to partially release the plantar fascia and stimulate healing of the chronic inflammation. Removal of a heel spur, if it is large, may also be done at the time of surgery.

Surgical Treatment

When a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is made early, most patients respond to conservative treatment and don?t require surgical intervention. Often, when there is a secondary diagnosis contributing to your pain, such as an entrapped nerve, and you are non-responsive to conservative care, surgery may be considered. Dr. Talarico will discuss all options and which approach would be the most beneficial for your condition.

back of heel cushions

Prevention

Painful Heel

Wearing real good, supportive shoes are a great way to avoid heel pain. Usually, New Balance is a good shoe to wear, just for everyday shoe gear. By wearing proper footwear and performing thorough stretches, athletes can help prevent frequent heel pain. If you are starting to get a little discomfort or pain in the feet or heel, know that pain is not normal. So if you are having pain, you should be proactive and visit our office. If you let heel pain get out of control you could run into several other problems. It is always suggested to visit a podiatrist whenever you are experiencing pain.