I Can Hardly Walk: Can You Help With My Heel Pain?

Your feet take quite a beating. For every mile you walk, each foot endures 60 tons of stress. That sounds like a lot, but your feet are designed to handle it. Much more stress, though, can lead to pain and inflammation of the tissues, causing a painful heel, the most common issue that affects the foot and ankle.

Many people try to power through the pain, which can spread beyond the heel to the bottom of the feet, but that only makes things worse, leading to a chronic condition with additional symptoms.

At Monroe Foot & Ankle Care in Jamesburg, New Jersey, Dr. Elliott Perel, a podiatric physician and surgeon, offers solutions for heel pain and for a wide variety of other podiatric problems. Here’s what he’d like you to know about the causes of heel pain and their various solutions.

What’s causing my heel pain, and how can you help?

Heel pain mostly results from repetitive stress, such as with long-distance running, jumping, or ballet, or structural issues affecting the bones and soft tissues. There are a number of conditions that may cause such pain.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the most common reason for heel pain. The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that runs from the heel bone to the tip of the foot. When the fascia stretches beyond its normal capacity, its fibers become inflamed, resulting in pain. You often feel the pain where the tissue attaches to the heel bone, but you can feel it in the middle of the foot as well.

Those who are most at risk for developing plantar fasciitis are active adults aged 40-70, especially if they’re runners or are on their feet for long periods, such as standing at work. Also at risk are those who are overweight or obese, and pregnant women due to the additional weight they carry.

Structural foot problems such as flat feet or high arches can strain the tissue, too, as can wearing shoes without enough arch support.

Treatment starts with basic therapies, including icing, rest, braces, and OTC anti-inflammatory medications. If they don’t offer enough relief, Dr. Perel may inject a corticosteroid directly into the damaged ligament. Physical therapy is also a good choice, helping you strengthen your lower leg muscles and stabilize your walk.

Achilles tendinitis

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It’s employed when you run, jump, walk, or even push up on your toes. Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury. It’s often seen in runners who’ve increased the intensity or length of their workouts, or in weekend warriors.

When overstretched, the Achilles tendon develops microscopic tears. It thickens, weakens, and you feel pain at the back of the heel (think an “Achilles heel”). You may also notice a limited range of motion upon flexing your foot.

Treatments for Achilles tendonitis tend to be conservative and include:

Surgery is only an option in extremely severe cases.

Heel bursitis

Heel bursitis is an inflammatory condition of the bursa, a fibrous sac at the back of the heel that’s filled with fluid and serves to cushion the bone, muscles, and ligaments. The inflammation may come from repeated irritation from landing hard on the heels or from footwear that distributes your weight unevenly toward the heel.

Pain may occur either deep in the heel or sometimes in the Achilles tendon, which can swell along with the bursae. The pain generally gets worse the more you walk.

Treatments are again conservative, similar to those of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Heel spurs

Spurs are bony protrusions on the sole of the heel bone formed from calcium deposits. They’re frequently caused by strains of the muscles or ligaments, stretching of the plantar fascia, and repeated tearing of the heel bone membrane. These growths are common among athletes who run and jump a lot.

Treatments are again conservative, similar to those of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

If you’re experiencing heel pain, don’t let it sideline you; Monroe Foot & Ankle Care can help. Give us a call at 732-521-6166 to schedule a consultation, or book online today.

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