Why does my heel pain? Know common causes and treatment
By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023
Heel pain is a common issue that can affect people of all backgrounds and ages. Whether the pain stems from the underside or behind the heel, it can range from minor discomfort to a severe condition that disrupts daily life. Understanding the underlying causes, recognizing the symptoms, and being aware of preventive measures and treatment options are crucial for maintaining healthy and pain-free feet.
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What Causes Heel Pain?
According to Dr. Naga Vani, Senior Physiotherapist at Kamineni Hospitals in Hyderabad, heel pain can be attributed to various causes, each with its own contributing factors. The most prevalent cause is plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the thick tissue band called the plantar fascia becomes inflamed or irritated. Common risk factors for plantar fasciitis include overuse, obesity, unsuitable footwear, and high arches.
Here are some other common reasons for heel pain:
1. Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is another common source of heel discomfort. It results from the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. This condition often arises from overuse, sudden increases in physical activity, or tight calf muscles.
2. Heel Spurs
Heel spurs are bony growths that develop under the heel bone. They can cause pain when they irritate the surrounding tissues, often coexisting with plantar fasciitis.
3. Inflammation between the Heel Bone and Skin
Bursitis, characterized by inflammation of the bursa sac between the heel bone and Achilles tendon or skin, can also contribute to heel pain.
4. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures, which are tiny cracks in the heel bone due to repetitive stress or trauma, are more common among athletes and those engaged in high-impact activities.
Signs and Symptoms of Heel Pain
Heel pain can present in various forms, ranging from mild discomfort to agonizing distress. Common symptoms include:
- Sharp, stabbing pain, particularly noticeable in the morning or after rest.
- Swelling, especially with conditions like Achilles tendinitis or bursitis.
- Stiffness in the heel and surrounding area, making foot movement challenging.
- Redness and warmth in severe cases of inflammation or infection.
These signs and symptoms serve as important indicators of heel pain, aiding in both diagnosis and timely treatment.
How to Prevent Heel Pain?
Preventing heel pain involves taking a proactive approach to maintain overall foot health and considering specific risk factors. Here are some essential preventive measures:
1. Choose Appropriate Footwear
Opt for shoes that provide adequate arch support, cushioning, and a comfortable fit. Avoid high heels or footwear with insufficient support, as they can strain the plantar fascia or Achilles tendon and worsen heel pain.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess body weight puts additional stress on the feet, contributing to heel pain. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can significantly reduce this strain and alleviate the risk of heel pain.
3. Incorporate Exercises for Strength and Flexibility
Regularly incorporate stretching exercises into your routine to improve the flexibility and strength of the Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Consulting with a physical therapist or fitness professional can provide tailored guidance on effective exercises.
4. Gradually Increase Physical Activity
Avoid sudden, intense changes in physical activity or high-impact exercises. Instead, gradually increase your activity levels to allow your feet to adapt and minimize the risk of overuse injuries that can lead to heel pain.
What Is the Best Treatment for Heel Pain?
Prompt and appropriate treatment is crucial for relieving heel pain. The choice of treatment depends on the cause and severity of the pain. The recommended treatment options include:
Initially, it’s important to allow your feet to rest and avoid activities that worsen the discomfort. Applying ice to the affected area and elevating the foot can help reduce inflammation and provide relief.
2. Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is often recommended, where a trained therapist prescribes exercises and stretches to enhance foot and calf flexibility and strength. Orthotic devices, such as custom-made or over-the-counter inserts, can offer improved arch support and cushioning in your footwear.
3. Non-Steroidal Drugs
Doctors may advise the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, cortisone injections can provide relief, but surgery is typically reserved as a last resort for situations unresponsive to conservative treatments.
In conclusion, understanding the causes of heel pain, recognizing the symptoms, and adopting preventive measures can help alleviate discomfort and ensure the overall well-being of your feet. If you experience persistent or severe heel pain, it is recommended to seek advice from a healthcare professional.