The heel is made up of the calcaneus bone and supported by a network of muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues. Heel pain is a common symptom of excessive strain placed on any these structures which may result because these structures together support the weight of the body and stress during movement.
Heel pain is often felt under or behind the heel during walking, jogging and running. Pain may also be associated with swelling, inflammation, numbness and/or a tingling sensation.
Some ways to prevent heal pain are:
- Wear properly fitted shoes
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
- Use shoe inserts
- Maintain heel cord flexibility.
The cause of the heel pain is diagnosed by performing a thorough physical examination of your heel, observing and feeling for signs of swelling and tenderness and obtaining a thorough medical history. The doctor might also order blood tests, and imaging studies (X-ray, CT or MRI scans).
Common Causes of Heel Pain
Heel pain can be caused by obesity, abnormal walking style, standing or walking or running on hard surfaces and wearing ill-fitting shoes. Some of the conditions related to heel pain include:
- Plantar fasciitis: inflammation of the ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes
- Bursitis: swelling of a bursa (fluid-filled sac) at the back of the heel
- Achilles tendinitis: swelling of the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscle and heel bone
- Bone spurs: extra growth of bone
- Calcaneus fracture
- Haglund’s deformity: bone enlargement at the back of heel
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome: compression of nerves at the back of the foot
- Rheumatoid arthritis: autoimmune disease of the joints
Treatment of Heel Pain
Treatment of heel pain may be determined by the causes.
Some conventional treatments include:
- Rest from activities that causes stress on the heel
- Applying ice packs to help reduce pain and inflammation
- Regular exercise and foot massage
- Wearing proper shoes
- Wearing heel cups, professional heel straps and night splints
- Corticosteroid injections
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Biologics
- Anti-inflammatory medication (topical or oral)
- Physical therapy. For example, Heel cord stretches are very helpful to decrease stress on the Achilles and plantar fascia.
- Surgery may be recommended in cases of heel spurs, bursitis or fracture of the heel bone.