Heel pain is usually caused by overuse or, in some cases, by trauma to the heel. When walking, the first part of the foot to interact with the ground is the heel. The heel bone – or calf bone – is under the most stress when walking.
The structures that help stabilize the foot during walking are the arch, the compressed bone in the center of the foot, tendons and ligaments, and the muscles called flexors that support the arch. However, when the structures associated with the heel bone become swollen, inflamed or torn due to abnormal gait, this often leads to lasting pain.
When the long, flat tissue on the bottom of the foot tears and becomes inflamed, it is called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a painful, severe and progressive condition that, in the worst cases, can lead to a complete tear of the plantar fascial tissue. In most cases, treatment for plantar fasciitis heel pain is simple and inexpensive; however, treatment for plantar fasciitis heel pain can be time consuming. It is not uncommon for plantar fasciitis and heel pain to require 6 months to 1 year of treatment.
Pain and inflammation of the Achilles tendon can also cause heel pain, more specifically, behind the heel. This is usually caused by tendonitis of the Achilles tendon and the most obvious symptom is pain when walking or running.
Another cause of heel shooting pain can be a heel spur. Heel spurs are bone spurs that have been deposited due to inflammation. They can easily interfere with your daily activities because they cause severe pain with every step. Sharp, stabbing pain is typical of pain from heel spurs. However, heel spurs may not hurt at all and may not require a treatment plan.
There are many ways to treat heel pain, and as long as the pain is not so severe as to be debilitating, it can be treated with conventional methods. A logical step is to avoid high-impact activities that can make the pain worse. Ice is also known to be an effective treatment for heel pain because it reduces swelling and stops the pain immediately when applied to the area. These simple procedures, combined with the use of comfortable shoes, help to relieve the pain. In cases of more persistent pain, orthotics may be needed to improve foot function and proper body weight distribution.
Another treatment that has been shown to be effective in treating acute heel pain is ESWT (extracorporeal shock wave therapy). This technique can be applied in less than an hour and the patient can usually return to normal activities within 24 hours. If the heel pain is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, tarsal tunnel syndrome or infection, it cannot be treated with ESWT. In addition, it cannot be used in people who regularly take medications such as heparin, or in patients with certain medical conditions. Your doctor will be able to advise you on this treatment for heel pain and suggest the best option for treating heel pain based on your condition and its severity.
Visiting a Columbia Maryland podiatrist to get to the bottom of the problem, and to ensure that the correct heel pain treatment regimen is started promptly. Effective pain treatment options are numerous, but not all will work with everyone. It may take a little trial and error to get the one which is right for you.