There are two categories of Heel Pain. pain on the bottom (plantar) and pain on the back of the heel bone (calcaneus). The most common cause pain on the bottom of the heel is plantar fasciitis or better known as heel spur syndrome. Another common cause is nerve entrapment (~70% of patients have both plantar fasciitis and nerve entrapment) and less commonly, stress fracture, arthritis, tendonitis, a cyst or a combination of these. Pain on the back of the heel most often involves the insertion of the Achilles tendon into the bone. Due to the multi-factorial nature of heel pain, the earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome.
Heel pain is most often the result of overuse. Rarely, it may be caused by an injury. Your heel may become tender or swollen from, shoes with poor support or shock absorption. Running on hard surfaces, like concrete. Running too often. Tightness in your calf muscle or the Achilles tendon. Sudden inward or outward turning of your heel. Landing hard or awkwardly on the heel. Conditions that may cause heel pain include. When the tendon that connects the back of your leg to your heel becomes swollen and painful near the bottom of the foot. Swelling of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) at the back of the heel bone under the Achilles tendon (bursitis). Bone spurs in the heel. Swelling of the thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot (plantar fasciitis). Fracture of the heel bone that is related to landing very hard on your heel from a fall (calcaneus fracture).
The most common complaint is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. Heel pain may be sharp or dull, and it may develop slowly over time or suddenly after intense activity. The pain is typically worse in the morning, when taking your first steps of the day. After standing or sitting for a while. When climbing stairs.
The diagnosis of heel pain and heel spurs is made by a through history of the course of the condition and by physical exam. Weight bearing x-rays are useful in determining if a heel spur is present and to rule out rare causes of heel pain such as a stress fracture of the heel bone, the presence of bone tumors or evidence of soft tissue damage caused by certain connective tissue disorders.
Non Surgical Treatment
Heel pain often goes away on its own with home care. For heel pain that isn’t severe, try the following. Rest. If possible, avoid activities that put stress on your heels, such as running, standing for long periods or walking on hard surfaces. Ice. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on your heel for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day. New shoes. Be sure your shoes fit properly and provide plenty of support. If you’re an athlete, choose shoes appropriate for your sport and replace them regularly. Foot supports. Heel cups or wedges that you buy in the drugstore often provide relief. Custom-made orthotics usually aren’t needed for heel problems. Over-the-counter pain medications. Aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) can reduce inflammation and pain.
Although most patients with plantar fasciitis respond to non-surgical treatment, a small percentage of patients may require surgery. If, after several months of non-surgical treatment, you continue to have heel pain, surgery will be considered. Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss the surgical options with you and determine which approach would be most beneficial for you. No matter what kind of treatment you undergo for plantar fasciitis, the underlying causes that led to this condition may remain. Therefore, you will need to continue with preventive measures. Wearing supportive shoes, stretching, and using custom orthotic devices are the mainstay of long-term treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Maintaining flexible and strong muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet can help prevent some types of heel pain. Always stretch and warm-up before exercising. Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes with good arch support and cushioning. Make sure there is enough room for your toes.