Heel pain is one of the most common problems we see, and one of the most common culprits is plantar fasciitis. There is a band of fibrous tissues, called the plantar fascia, that spans the arch of your foot, connecting your heel bone to your toes. Since your arch is subjected to excessive amounts of pressure and impact, this band of tissues supporting it can become irritated and inflamed, pulling on your heel bone, and resulting in pain.
A Common Problem
Overuse is typically to blame, which is why this injury is often seen in long-distance runners, but it can also show up in people who spend a lot of time on their feet at work, or whose jobs or hobbies require repetitive stress placed on their feet. Exercising on hard surfaces and suddenly increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts can factor in to a plantar fascia problem as well. Those with high or no arches with a tendency to have pronation issues are also prone to the condition. In addition, weekend warriors who jump into an activity without much preparation are at risk, as are those who are overweight or who have tight Achilles tendons. With so many risk factors, you can see why this is such a common problem!
A Rude Awakening
Heel pain is the main symptom of this condition, and is especially prominent first thing in the morning or after periods of extended rest. That’s because the already irritated band of tissues is “awakened” by suddenly having to stretch when you step. This pulls on your heel bone, causing a sharp, stabbing pain. After walking around a bit, the pain usually subsides, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re all better! Activity will eventually catch up to you and the pain will return, especially if you climb any stairs, do any exercise, or are on your feet for too long. A heel spur can also develop as a result of this condition — the point at which the bone is being pulled can form into a hook-like protrusion, which in turn, adds to the problem.
A Return to Pain-Free Days
Fortunately, plantar fasciitis can be treated conservatively in most cases. Taking a break from activities that are causing you pain can do wonders. If it’s running, take some days off or choose to swim instead. If you stand a lot at work, be sure to sit from time to time. Investing in good, supportive, and well-cushioned shoes is a must! You can also try heel pads or cups, or orthotic shoe inserts to redistribute weight away from your heel and provide additional cushion and support. Ice and anti-inflammatory medication can help to ease pain while your plantar fascia heals, and there are stretches you can perform that will reduce symptoms as well. If pain persists, there are alternative treatments like injection therapy, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy that can help. Surgery can also be performed, however this is rare. Returning to normal activities should be done gradually, and only after you’ve given your plantar fascia the time it needs to heal. If you feel any pain at all – stop!
Although plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain, there are many other culprits that could be behind your hurting heels. It’s important to get the correct diagnosis to determine the best treatment plan. If you are experiencing heel pain, make an appointment with Associates in Podiatry so you can get the help you need to get back to pain-free days.
Call (609) 924-8333 to reach our Princeton, NJ office or dial (908) 687-5757 for our Roselle Park location. You can also order our free book, All About Heel Pain! Your Guide to Heel Pain, its Causes and Remedies.
We’ll help get your heels happy one way or another!