Heel Pain

Ever experienced a time when pain in your heels kept you from doing something you wanted to do—going for a walk, doing chores, playing sports, playing with your children? Many, if not most people have. Yet relatively few of those people seek expert care.

We’d like to change that! Heel pain can have a significant negative effect on your quality of life, but in almost every case it can be diagnosed and treated, often through relatively simple, conservative measures. In fact, Dr. Todd E. Stevens or Dr. Danny J. Gomez of Associates in Podiatry help people with heel pain every day at their offices in Princeton and Roselle Park, NJ.

The Top Culprit—Plantar Fasciitis

By far the biggest single cause of heel pain in most adults is plantar fasciitis. In each foot, you have a fibrous band of connective tissue known as the plantar fascia, which starts at the heel and runs across the arch to the base of your toes. Plantar fasciitis occurs when that tissues is stretched and stressed, irritated and inflamed by tiny tears.

The classic symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain in the morning (or after a long rest). That’s because the plantar fascia contracts overnight; those first few steps can be sharply painful, but 10 or 15 minutes later the tissues loosen up a bit and the pain subsides somewhat. This type of heel pain is especially common for those who do a lot of standing or high-impact activities, who are overweight, who have particularly high or low arches, or even irregularities in walking gait.

Other Potential Causes of Heel Pain

Plantar fasciitis isn’t the only possible explanation, however. Some other causes include (but are not limited to):

  • Achilles tendinitis: The long tendon at the back of your heel (also known as the heel cord) has to handle a lot of weight and stress, and may become inflamed or torn. It’s particularly common among active middle-aged men, or those with especially tight calves.
  • Heel bursitis: An inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sac (bursa) that acts as a cushion between bone and soft tissue at the back of the heel.
  • Haglund’s deformity: Also known as “pump bump,” it’s a bony growth that forms at the back of the heel, often in response to friction from hard-backed shoes like pumps or skates.
  • Sever’s disease: The leading cause of heel pain in tweens and growing adolescents, it occurs due to swelling of the still-exposed growth plate of the heel. It’s most common in physically active kids during their growth spurt.

Treating Stubborn Heel Pain

Heel pain is not normal, so if you’re experiencing persistent problems with your hindfoot, we strongly encourage you to stop by for an evaluation. Identifying the problem and addressing it as early as possible is the best way to save you a lot of time, a lot of pain, and hopefully prevent the need for more aggressive forms of therapy.

Your specific treatment plan will vary depending on the diagnosis, severity of the condition, your lifestyle, and the underlying causes. That said, for many types of heel pain, conservative and non-invasive measures are often sufficient if the problem is addressed early enough. These might include a combination of rest, ice, medications, steroid injections, stretches and physical therapy, or other gentle interventions.

Often the root cause of a heel pain condition is a fundamental problem with your foot structure. In such cases, custom orthotics (which are created using an exact mold of your foot) can be made to provide any additional cushioning, support, or even biomechanical correction you may need.

Other more advanced procedures we may recommend include:

  • Shockwave therapy, which uses electric pulses to soothe pain and encourage natural healing
  • Radiofrequency nerve ablation, a minimally-invasive surgical technique for plantar fasciitis and a few other conditions that is performed outpatient and features quick recovery times
  • Traditional surgical treatments

The bottom line—you don’t have to put up with heel pain. Many treatments exist to help you get back on your feet pain free, and Associates in Podiatry can help you get there. Don’t live with painful heels another day! To schedule an appointment, fill out our online contact form, or give one of our offices a call: 609-924-8333 for Princeton, NJ, or 908-687-5757 for Roselle Park, NJ.