One of the most common reasons patients see us here at Patel Podiatry is to find relief from heel pain. The truth of the matter, though, is not nearly enough people have their heel pain treated. Because it’s such a common issue, too many individuals think it isn’t anything to worry about.
Unfortunately, that kind of thinking won’t lead to the condition getting better!
What is especially sad about those who don’t seek treatment is the simple fact that many cases of heel pain can be treated without needing surgery. Conservative (nonsurgical) care—including some measures you can take at home—is often very effective for relieving heel pain.
Leading causes of heel pain include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and Sever’s disease (for younger patients who are still growing). In all of these instances, a soft tissue is injured. For plantar fasciitis, the affected tissue is the plantar fascia (which connects the heel to the forefoot). In the cases of Achilles tendinitis and Sever’s disease, it’s the Achilles tendon.
We mention those soft tissues because one way you can manage (and even prevent) heel pain from Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis is to keep the soft tissues limber. This can be done by doing stretches like:
Eccentric heel drop. Standing on the edge of a step (with only the toes and ball of foot making contact with the step) and facing the stairs, slowly lower both heels down, hold for 10 seconds, and then raise back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
Toe stretches. Sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, grab your big toe of the elevated foot and gently pull back towards you. Once you feel the stretch, hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then release.
Calf stretches. Starting an arm’s length in front of a wall, place your hands on the wall and step forward with your left leg. Keeping the right heel on the ground and knee straight, slowly bend your left leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the right calf. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then release.
In addition to stretches as a way to treat heel pain, you may want to try over-the-counter medications to relieve pain and control inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—like naproxen or ibuprofen—are particularly effective.
Of course, check with our office before taking medication. We can recommend types and dosage amounts that will keep you safe and make sure the problem is being addressed!
Icing an inflamed tendon or fascia has the similar benefits as medication – reduced pain and swelling. When using ice, make sure to wrap the ice or ice pack in a thin towel before applying to the area of your heel that hurts. Doing so will reduce your risk of damaging the skin.
If you had been prescribed orthotics and haven’t been wearing them, this could be the root cause of the heel pain. Remember, these are used to correct gait problems and/or redistribute pressure from certain areas of your feet – and those could be the underlying issues causing your new heel pain.
The best treatment for heel pain—or any medical condition, actually—is to prevent it from developing in the first place. Measures you can take to reduce your risk of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis include:
Wear shoes that fit correctly.
Stretch your lower limbs daily.
Ease into high-impact physical activities (such as running or playing sports like basketball or tennis).
Cross-train by substituting a couple of running sessions during the week with low-impact exercises like yoga, swimming, and cycling.
If home treatment for your heel pain isn’t providing the results you hope to see, contact Patel Podiatry and request an appointment with our Milford office. We will be glad to assess your situation, determine what is wrong, and then create an effective treatment plan to resolve it for you.Call us today at (203) 876-7736 for more information or to request your appointment.