Ouch! Your heels hurt. You don’t know how or why, but they do, and now it’s getting in the way of your day. Mornings are miserable, workdays are way too long, and you’re far too sore to get much done by the time evening rolls around. Things you used to enjoy, like going for a walk around the park or a weekend tennis match? Forget about it. What’s going on?
Unfortunately, a heel pain diagnosis isn’t always that simple. Even though the symptoms can be very similar, the fundamental problem could be in your connective tissues (ligaments and tendons), muscles, bursae, nerves, or even your bones. So you’ll need to do a little extra detective work.
A good first place to start is with the most common heel pain condition—plantar fasciitis. There are a few telltale signs that strongly suggest this diagnosis is probably (although not certainly) the correct one. Location is key—you’re going to feel the pain on the underside of the heel, typically toward the front of the heel bone. (In fact, pain may be radiating into the arch as well.) The other signature symptom of this condition is sharp pain right immediately after rising from bed or from a lengthy rest.
If you think the problem might be something else, the first question to ask yourself is where the pain is mostly located. If the discomfort is mostly near the back of the heel, or possibly just above it, the most likely cause is Achilles tendinitis, followed by bursitis (either retroachilles or retrocalcaneal). That said, if there’s a hard, bony bump there (rather than just swollen and tender soft tissue), you might have Haglund’s deformity instead.
Pain on the underside of the heel can also range quite a bit beyond plantar fasciitis. If you experience pain that tends to increase over the course of the day, especially during or after activity, you might have stress fractures—or maybe just a simple bruise. If, however, you can identify strange sensations like tingling, burning, or numbness, there may be a nerve issue like tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Confused yet? The truth is that, while you can certainly narrow down the list of likely options based on carefully monitoring your symptoms, it’s usually best to skip the guesswork and visit Dr. Sanjay Patel for a medical diagnosis. That way, you can be sure you’re getting an effective treatment plan and will be back to full activity as soon as possible. Schedule your appointment today by calling (203) 876-7736.