When you think of heel pain, what comes to mind? Anyone who has experienced this condition understands the uncomfortable sensation in the back of your foot whenever you get up in the morning or take a step after sitting for too long. Heel pain, especially from plantar fasciitis, affects thousands of people every year, limiting their mobility and affecting their activities.
Inflammation in the Heel
The most common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis, is an uncomfortable swelling and tightening of the plantar fascia tissue. This tissue is a ligament that runs from your toes to your heel bone, where it attaches. It helps support the arch and provide some shape and protection for the sole of your foot. The band of connective tissue stretches somewhat when you step to help absorb shock.
However, too much pressure on this ligament stresses it. You may even develop microtears, which cause inflammation and stiffness. Continued pressure on your foot from walking aggravates the problem, so it worsens with time. You feel pain underneath your heel when you stand or walk around. This discomfort is typically worst when you first get up in the morning or after sitting for a long period of time. When you rest, your plantar fascia tightens up. Then, when you put weight on your foot again, the tissue is suddenly and forcefully stretched, causing damage and discomfort. Intense activity can also trigger the heel pain.
This is an overuse injury, so it does not improve on its own. In fact, it usually gets worse. Stress on the heel over time can create heel spurs or extra bone growth near the back of the foot where the ligament attaches. Plantar fasciitis develops for a variety of reasons. Insufficient support in the arch can add pressure to the heel. Weight gain, a too-tight Achilles tendon, and poor footwear can also strain the plantar fascia. The sooner you deal with the issue, however, the sooner you’re able to eliminate the problem and restore your foot to full comfort.
Reducing the Strain
The vast majority of all heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis is easily resolved through conservative methods. Dr. Sanjay Patel can evaluate your lower limb and determine the severity of your condition. Our highly-trained staff may use diagnostic images to help rule out other possible causes for your heel pain as well. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you’ll begin therapy to soothe your inflammation and restore your lower limbs.
You’ll need to rest your affected foot to allow it to recover. This will involve taking a break from strenuous activities and limiting the pressure you put on your lower limbs. Since much of your discomfort comes from swelling and tightening, you’ll need to ice and stretch your plantar fascia. The cold will decrease some irritation, while the stretching will help the ligament to relax and loosen so it doesn’t pull on your heel bone as much. You’ll most likely need to change your footwear, and possibly add orthotics, to better support your arch and your hindfoot. Extra padding can help reduce pressure in those areas as well. If the tissue isn’t responding to these therapies, a noninvasive procedure like shockwave therapy may help. Only rarely does anyone need surgery for this condition.
If you’re struggling with stubborn heel pain, don’t continue to put up with it. You don’t have to accept the discomfort as a normal part of an active lifestyle or aging. Some care and treatment can restore your feet to their full strength and abilities. Contact Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. to make an appointment to take care of your feet and ankles today. You can call either of our office locations—(203) 876-7736 for our Milford office, or (203) 288-4055 for the Hamden office—or use our online contact form to reach us.