Heel pain is most commonly caused by plantar fasciitis, which is the swelling of the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes at the bottom part of the foot, also known as the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis is often described as sharp pain in the middle of the heel, which is typically worse after periods of rest when fascia contracts. The pain usually becomes more bearable as the
muscles loosen up during the low-impact walking, but can return even worse after extended periods of walking or standing. The plantar fascia serves as a shock absorber and supports the footâs arch.
Too much tension on the plantar fascia can cause inflammation and swelling. Fortunately in most cases, plantar fasciitis treatment is fairly conservative. Plantar fasciitis exercises, medications and
orthotics are usually all thatâs needed to manage the pain. Most severe cases may require surgery.
It usually starts following an increase in activity levels. Increase in weight. Standing for long periods. Poor footwear. Tight muscle groups. Abnormal pressure on the plantar Fascia can be caused by
any of the above. The plantar fascia becomes inflamed and tiny rips can occur where it attaches into the inside of the heel bone. The area becomes inflamed and swollen, and it is the increase in
fluid to the area that accumulates when weight is taken off the area that then causes the pain on standing.
Symptoms of the plantar fasciitis include a gradual onset of pain under the heel which may radiate into the foot. Tenderness is usually felt under and on the inside of the heel which is initially
worse first in the morning but eases as the foot warms up only to return later in the day or after exercise. Stretching the plantar fascia may be painful.
X-rays are a commonly used diagnostic imaging technique to rule out the possibility of a bone spur as a cause of your heel pain. A bone spur, if it is present in this location, is probably not the
cause of your pain, but it is evidence that your plantar fascia has been exerting excessive force on your heel bone. X-ray images can also help determine if you have arthritis or whether other, more
rare problems, stress fractures, bone tumors-are contributing to your heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
More than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve within 10 months of starting simple treatment methods. Rest. Decreasing or even stopping the activities that make the pain worse is the
first step in reducing the pain. You may need to stop athletic activities where your feet pound on hard surfaces (for example, running or step aerobics). Ice. Rolling your foot over a cold water
bottle or ice for 20 minutes is effective. This can be done 3 to 4 times a day. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen reduce pain and inflammation. Using the
medication for more than 1 month should be reviewed with your primary care doctor. Exercise. Plantar fasciitis is aggravated by tight muscles in your feet and calves. Stretching your calves and
plantar fascia is the most effective way to relieve the pain that comes with this condition. Cortisone injections. Cortisone, a type of steroid, is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. It can be
injected into the plantar fascia to reduce inflammation and pain. Your doctor may limit your injections. Multiple steroid injections can cause the plantar fascia to rupture (tear), which can lead to
a flat foot and chronic pain. Soft heel pads can provide extra support. Supportive shoes and orthotics. Shoes with thick soles and extra cushioning can reduce pain with standing and walking. As you
step and your heel strikes the ground, a significant amount of tension is placed on the fascia, which causes microtrauma (tiny tears in the tissue). A cushioned shoe or insert reduces this tension
and the microtrauma that occurs with every step. Soft silicone heel pads are inexpensive and work by elevating and cushioning your heel. Pre-made or custom orthotics (shoe inserts) are also helpful.
Night splints. Most people sleep with their feet pointed down. This relaxes the plantar fascia and is one of the reasons for morning heel pain. A night splint stretches the plantar fascia while you
sleep. Although it can be difficult to sleep with, a night splint is very effective and does not have to be used once the pain is gone. Physical therapy. Your doctor may suggest that you work with a
physical therapist on an exercise program that focuses on stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia. In addition to exercises like the ones mentioned above, a physical therapy program may
involve specialized ice treatments, massage, and medication to decrease inflammation around the plantar fascia. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). During this procedure, high-energy shockwave
impulses stimulate the healing process in damaged plantar fascia tissue. ESWT has not shown consistent results and, therefore, is not commonly performed. ESWT is noninvasive-it does not require a
surgical incision. Because of the minimal risk involved, ESWT is sometimes tried before surgery is considered.
Surgery is not a common treatment for this condition. Approximately 5% of people with plantar fasciitis require surgery if non-surgical methods do not help to relieve pain within a year. The surgical
procedure involves making an incision in the plantar fascia in order to decrease the tension of the ligament. Potential risks of this surgical procedure include irritation of the nerves around the
heel, continued plantar fasciitis, heel or foot pain, infection, flattening of the arch, problems relating to the anesthetic.
Maintain a healthy weight. This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia. Choose supportive shoes. Avoid high heels. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency.
Don't go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces. Don't wear worn-out athletic shoes. Replace your old athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet. If you're a runner, buy new
shoes after about 500 miles of use. Change your sport. Try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling, instead of walking or jogging. Apply ice. Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of
pain for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Or try ice massage. Freeze a water-filled paper cup and roll it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes.
Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation. Stretch your arches. Simple home exercises can stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.