You probably never think much about the heel of your foot until you develop a problem. Then it seems like your heel is all you can think about! Because it’s the biggest bone in your foot, your heel can be the source of pain and mobility problems.
At Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine in Kirkland, Washington, our caring team offers a range of solutions to heel pain, whatever the cause, and we can get you on your feet again. Here, we discuss what could be causing your heel pain, and what you can do about it.
Degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis damage your heel joints. When your body perceives the degeneration process, it provokes your innate healing process to build new bone onto your existing bone, making bone spurs. Spurs can cause cramps, stiffness, joint pain, nerve pain, and weakness in your heel.
A common, but painful condition, Achilles tendonitis occurs when the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone becomes inflamed. This tendon helps you walk, run, jump, and go up and down stairs, so any pain or inflammation in it can sideline you for days or weeks.
The thick band of tissue that spans the bottom of your foot between your toes and heel can tear or become inflamed and cause agonizing, stabbing pain. You’re at an increased risk for plantar fasciitis if you:
- Are a runner
- Are very overweight or obese
- Wear shoes that are too tight
Plantar fasciitis pain is often worse when you first stand after sitting or when you wake up and start moving in the morning. Once the tissue stretches some with movement, the pain lessens some, but it doesn’t go away completely.
A heel fracture occurs when you break your heel bone. It usually happens with force, such as the result of trauma, and requires emergency care. You may also develop what’s known as a stress fracture, which is a hairline crack in the bone. Some of the signature symptoms of a fractured heel bone are:
- Inability to stand or put weight on the heel
- Inability to rotate the heel
- Sudden, severe pain
Seek medical treatment immediately if you suspect you have a heel fracture.
When the plantar fascia pulls too much at the point where it attaches to your heel, calcium builds up and protrusions called heel spurs can develop. Pain and inflammation are the main symptoms of heel spurs.
Treatments for heel pain
Some of the most effective therapies for heel pain and the methods we rely on to help our patients return to the activities they love are:
- Footwear recommendations
- Custom orthotics
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Bracing, casting, or splints
- Stretching exercises
- Lifestyle changes or movement modifications
- Hot and cold therapy
The first step to healing is to come in for an X-ray and evaluation so we can pinpoint the exact cause of your heel pain. Once we diagnose the problem, we customize a treatment plan that alleviates your heel pain and restores function in your foot. Call us today, or use our online scheduling tool to make an appointment.