If we made a list of all the symptoms our patients experience, heel pain would be somewhere near the top. Maybe even the very top.
Unfortunately, that leads many people to conclude that heel pain is an inevitable part of growing older, or working certain jobs. Sometimes people don’t even come to see us until the pain is so bad that they can barely stand or walk for more than a few minutes at a time.
Don’t be one of them!
Heel pain can almost always be treated without surgery. More than that, it should be treated, especially if it’s keeping you from what you love.
We know that going to the doctor isn’t everyone’s favorite way to spend an afternoon, but trust us: a visit to our office at the first sign of trouble will save you a boatload of unnecessary pain and struggle.
Common Heel Pain Conditions
One thing to keep in mind is that “heel pain” is not itself a condition, but a symptom that can be produced by any number of medical diagnoses.
In order to ensure that we provide you with the best treatment plan, it’s important to make sure we get the diagnosis right first. Some of the most common heel pain conditions include:
Plantar fasciitis. Inflammation or tearing in the plantar fascia, a tough ligament that crosses the bottom of your foot from the heel to the toes. One of the most common symptoms is sharp heel pain when you get out of bed or stand up after a lengthy rest.
Achilles tendinitis. Inflammation, tearing, or degeneration in the Achilles tendon, located along the back of the leg where the calf muscle attaches to the heel bone.
Haglund’s deformity. A bony prominence that builds up behind the heel bone due to repeated irritation. It’s commonly called “pump bump” since it occurs frequently in women who often wear pumps, but any style of hard-backed shoes can be a trigger.
Bursitis. Irritation in a bursa, which is a small fluid-filled sac designed to cushion and lubricate the various structures within a joint. Bursitis is especially common along the back of the heel and can easily be confused with Achilles tendinitis. It may occur in tandem with Haglund’s deformity.
Sever’s disease / calcaneal apophysitis. This is the most common heel pain condition for children, especially physically active adolescents. At this age, the ends of many bones are “capped” by a section of softer (and more easily injured) tissue called a growth plate. The growth plate of the heel bone is especially vulnerable.
Nerve pain. Nerve issues such as peripheral neuropathy or pinched nerves in the ankle may produce heel pain symptoms.
Additional possibilities include bruises, stress fractures, inflammatory arthritis, and others.
Causes of Heel Pain
Of course, nobody simply wakes up with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. They need to come from somewhere. But where?
There’s not always one specific cause, and we’ll help you narrow down the list of suspects at your appointment. That said, here are some of the most common repeat offenders:
- Poor footwear choices. If your shoes don’t fit, don’t support your arches, or don’t cushion your heels properly, heel pain is a very likely consequence.
- Unlucky genetics. Unfortunately, some people are more predisposed to heel pain than others due to the way their feet are shaped or their biomechanics. Fortunately, these issues can be accommodated.
- Physical activities. Perhaps you work on your feet all day or enjoy fairly rigorous hobbies.
- Bodyweight. It must be said: the heavier you are, the greater the forces your heels have to withstand.
Treating Your Heel Pain
As we said, most forms of pain can be eliminated using tried-and-true conservative treatments. Many mild cases can be treated purely at home, and only about five percent of cases need to go to some kind of surgical fix. This is true even if your condition is chronic and you haven’t been able to shake it yourself.
However, in order for treatment to work, you have to get the correct diagnosis from a professional and then stick to the plan! If you treat our recommendations as mere suggestions, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Cutting corners during recovery, or slipping back into bad habits after your heels start feeling better, are great strategies only if your goal is to wind up back in our office for follow-up care!
Now, the exact treatment recommendations for your situation will depend on your diagnosis and the causes behind that diagnosis, as well as what your personal goals are. That being said, some of the more common recommendations include:
- Rest your feet. Try to avoid physically stressful activities that trigger heel pain for a while, so that your heels can actually start to heal. We may recommend some alternative exercises you can perform or modifications to your workspace that can help.
- Get the proper shoes (and actually WEAR them). This is really critical, and where most people end up sabotaging their own recovery.
- Orthotic inserts. Most people with persistent heel pain will end up needing a set of these. We carry a selection of high-quality prefabricated inserts and can pick some out for you. We also provide custom orthotics for those who need them.
- Physical therapy. We might recommend certain stretches and exercises for you to perform, or supply you with splints or braces to wear at night that can help.
- Pain management. If symptoms are too severe to manage in the short term with over-the-counter medications (or it’s simply unsafe for you to take them), we may provide an injection for longer-lasting relief.
- Surgery. In very, very rare circumstances this might be an option, but in general we’ll recommend you try all other relevant non-surgical treatments first.
If you skimmed the previous sections, here’s the short version of what we want you to take away from everything we just covered:
- Heel pain is not normal, and you shouldn’t put up with it. You should treat it.
- Every case of heel pain is unique, just like every patient is unique. We are going to give you the individualized attention you need so that your treatment actually works.
- Provided you stick with your treatment plan, heel pain almost always goes away, and surgery is rarely necessary. Then, you can go back to living your best life!
Sound like a plan? If so, please reach out to our office in Colorado Springs today to schedule your appointment! You can call us at (719) 576-2080, or request an appointment using our online contact form.