Heel pain is a common complaint for many Australians and there are several causes ranging from stress fractures to tendon injuries to arthritis. It is not something that should be ignored, it’s important to see a foot and ankle specialist to determine the cause of the heel pain so the proper treatment can be prescribed to get you back on your feet, in comfort and without pain. At the Walking Clinic, our podiatrists are experts in treating heel pain and other foot concerns. Let’s have a look at the common causes of heel pain, when you should consult a medical professional and the possible treatments and preventative measures.
What Causes Heel Pain?
Although heel pain is usually caused by overuse, there are many common causes including:
Plantar fasciitis – referring to irritation and inflammation of the fibrous band that forms the arch of the foot and connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. Having abnormal foot structure such as flat feet or high arched feet, or wearing non-supportive footwear on hard surfaces, can cause your plantar fascia to become irritated, pulling on where it attaches to your heel bone. This can make the fascia and heel inflamed and sore. Commonly people report they get pain on the first steps out of bed in the morning or after rest.
Achilles tendinitis – inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which runs from the heel to the calf.
Often causing pain behind the heel, it can also cause swelling, warmth and tenderness. It might hurt to rise to stand on your toes. The Achillies tendon can commonly be irritated due to tightness of the calf muscle or long walks up-hill. You may need to see a podiatrist to assess your symptoms and gait to form a treatment plan, which may include special exercises to treat the symptoms.
Other causes may include:
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome – a pinched nerve
- Baxter’s nerve impingement
- Arthritis of sub-talar joint
- Heel bursitis – inflammation of the back of the heel, the bursa
- Stress fracture – this can be caused by repetitive stress, strenuous exercise, sports or heavy manual work
- Haglund’s deformity – formation of lump at insertion of Achilles
- Heel spurs – commonly confused with plantar fasciitis
- Fibromyalgia – a chronic condition that causes pain in the muscles
- Osteoporosis – reduction in bone density and can cause pain
- Osteomyelitis – infection of the bone
- Heel pad atrophy (breakdown of cushion in heel)
Seeing a Podiatrist for Heel Pain
Whether the pain is excruciating or just annoying, if it’s persistent you should seek medical attention. Due to the complex anatomy of the foot, your podiatrist will consider issues relating to bones, soft tissues, nerves, and skin that comprise your entire foot and ankle, even your full lower leg and the way it function when working to find the reason behind your discomfort, you will then be given a treatment plan to start you on the road to improvement. If you are experiencing any of the below symptoms, you should see a podiatrist and have your heel evaluated:
- Difficulty walking normally
- Heel pain that occurs at night or while resting
- Heel pain that persists beyond a few days
- Sharp pain when getting out of bed or after rest
- Altered sensation of feet like pins and needles
- Swelling or discoloration of the back of the foot
- Signs of an infection, including fever, redness, warmth
- Difficulty bending the foot downward or standing on tip toes
Heel Pain Treatment
Depending on the reason for your heel pain, your podiatrist may recommend rest and in-home treatments such as stretching your calf muscles. Other treatments may include applying ice, anti-inflammatory painkillers, strapping and offloading padding. The most common treatments that offer the best results are Custom prescription orthotics and shock wave therapy treatment, which are both offer by the podiatrists at The Walking Clinic. In most cases people will recover with conservative treatments within months.
Heel Pain Prevention
Reducing stress on the feet is the best way to prevent heel injury and pain. You can do this by:
- Wearing shoes when walking or standing on hard ground – avoid going barefoot
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Ensuring shoes are properly fitted and are the correct shoe for the activity
- Stretching and exercises can help strengthen the feet to stabilise your feet
- Warming up properly before engaging in sports and activities
- Wearing the appropriate footwear for physical activity and sports
If you are experiencing heel pain, contact The Walking Clinic today and book an appointment with one of our highly trained podiatrists. With Four convenient locations, there’s sure to be a podiatry clinic near you. Committed to providing Canberra residents with high quality podiatric care, our friendly and highly qualified team aim to provide the best possible treatment, service and advice. Call us today or book an appointment online.