Help for Heel Pain

Heel pain has many possible causes. Learning about the symptoms can help you take care of your heels and prevent problems, says the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Plantar fasciitis

This condition occurs when the plantar fascia—a band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot—is overloaded or overstretched, causing small tears.

The condition causes intense heel pain along the bottom of the foot during the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning. This pain often goes away once you start to walk around, but it may return in the evening.

Self-care includes taking a break from sports, doing stretching exercises, massaging the sole of the foot with ice for six to eight weeks, and taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, as needed.

Heel spur

This condition occurs when an abnormal growth of bone occurs where the plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone. It’s caused by long-term strain on the plantar fascia and muscles of the foot, especially in obese people or joggers. Worn out shoes can aggravate the problem.

Treatment includes wearing supportive, well-fitting shoes and adding shoe supports—either a heel raise or a donut-shaped heel cushion.

Bursitis

Heel bursitis causes pain at the underside or back of the heel. It can be caused by wearing shoes with poorly cushioned heels.

The condition causes pain in the middle of the bottom of the heel that worsens with prolonged standing, and pain at the back of the heel that worsens if you bend your foot up or down.

Treatment is similar to that for heel spurs.

Achilles tendonitis

This condition can be triggered by overuse of the foot, especially by excessive jumping and wearing poorly fitting shoes.

The condition causes pain at the back of the heel that typically becomes worse if you exercise, and it often is accompanied by soreness, stiffness, and mild swelling.

Treat it with rest, orthotics, anti-inflammatory medications, stretches, and physical therapy.

Prevention

You can help prevent heel pain by maintaining a healthy weight, warming up before participating in sports, and wearing shoes that support the arch of the foot and cushion the heel.

Make an appointment to see your health care provider if you have significant heel pain that doesn’t improve within a few days, or if you’ve been self-treating moderate heel pain for several weeks with no improvement.

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