Have you got heel pain that has gradually gotten worse over time? Is it especially bad in the morning when you get out of bed? Heel pain is a VERY common problem. As Podiatrists we see this problem every day ranging from children to adults. Since it is a complex problem to explain, let’s just concentrate on heel pain in the adult population in this article.
What exactly causes heel pain? To better get an understanding of this we should shed some light on the make up and structures around the heel. The heel bone (calcaneus) is surrounded by a complex structure of soft tissue connections – the achilles tendon at the back, the plantar fascia at the bottom and other soft tissue structures such as nerves, arteries, veins, long tendons from muscles in the leg and ligaments that connect it to other smaller bones of the foot and leg. When these structures aren’t strong or they are not able to put up with high loads and demands placed on them, this usually puts enormous strain on the plantar fascia and/or structures around the heel and can result in an injury. Heel pain is not usually caused by a single injury, such as a twist or fall, but from repetitive stress and pounding of the heel.
High stress and strain and increased loading comes in many forms. Wearing very flat unsupportive footwear for long periods of time, sudden increase in exercise, change in work conditions where more standing is required, sudden change in footwear that places the foot in a different position (going from high heels to flat shoes) – these are just a few of the many possible contributing factors.
Sometimes, if the heel pain isn’t treated early (acute phase) the problem can persevere for months and result in the pain being harder to treat at home without professional help.
What should you do if you there are signs of heel pain at home during the early acute phase? It’s important to pay attention to what you may have done that could have caused the increased stress and strain in the first place. Have you been too eager to lose weight and you thought a 2 hour walk would be good for you in the first week? Have you been wearing flip-flops everyday because the weather’s been hot? Has work provided you with a brand new pair of safety shoes that you’re not used to? These are questions to ask yourself. Of course, try and reduce the load on your feet as soon as possible to help ease the stress and strain on your heel and structures around it. Home remedies can be successful at reducing heel pain in the early phase. Apply ice or a frozen bag of peas or roll a frozen bottle of water over the area to help reduce the inflammation. If your calves are tight, try and do calf stretches and get those tight calves massaged. This should help improve ankle movement and function, thereby helping to ease strain on the structures around the heel. Doing simple strengthening exercises to strengthen the calves and smaller muscles of the feet can help prepare them to better respond to increased loads.
If your heel pain still persists and you’ve Googled and have tried everything that’s on offer at the local pharmacy then the next best thing to do is see a Podiatrist. This is our specialty, we see this day in day out. We can help! Some treatment modalities that our team can offer are: Shockwave Therapy, Orthotics, Footwear Education and Modification, Dry Needling and Foot Mobilisation and Manipulation. So don’t put up with heel pain! Get yourself assessed so you can get back to doing what you love without pain.