Heel pain is fairly common, and there are any number of possible causes. Many will resolve on their own, but chronic pain is a little different. Chronic heel pain lasts for months to years, and the cause isn’t resolved simply by staying off your feet for a few days. That isn’t to say you’re always in pain but that it never quite goes away for very long. So, why does my heel hurt?
Why Does My Heel Hurt?
One of the most common causes of chronic heel pain is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that runs from the back of your heel to your toes, and it’s pretty important. The plantar fascia supports the arch of your foot and tenses as the weight of your body is transferred to each foot. Unfortunately, that band can become inflamed when your feet are over-worked or under-supported. This inflammation is what causes the pain associated with plantar fasciitis.
Recognizing the Signs
The pain caused by plantar fasciitis isn’t consistent. Most patients experience their most intense symptoms immediately when they get up in the morning. It’s often described as a stabbing pain, but that may not apply to everyone. Generally speaking, the pain subsides somewhat throughout the day. This is especially true if you wear shoes that offer improved support.
Although plantar fasciitis is most common in runners and the obese, it’s possible for anyone to develop the condition. Over the weeks and months following their initial pain, many plantar fasciitis patients experience increased pain first thing in the morning and after periods of rest. This pain is often felt most in the heel, but it is possible to feel the pain of plantar fasciitis down the middle of the foot as well.
The Relationship with Heel Spurs
In addition to worsening pain, untreated plantar fasciitis increases your risk of developing heel spurs. A heel spur is a bony growth that forms at the bottom of your heel in response to the repeated tearing of the membrane covering the heel bone. For some lucky people, these growths are practically painless. However, there are many cases where the extra bone exacerbates the patient’s heel pain.
If your case of plantar fasciitis has developed far enough to cause the formation of a heel spur, then it is possible that the heel spur will have to be treated first. Fortunately, the Heel Pain Institute of California offers minimally invasive heel spur treatment to help get you back on track. Once your heel spur has been resolved, you can start the process of treating your plantar fasciitis.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
The good news is that most cases of plantar fasciitis can be treated non-surgically. Stretching and physical therapy are the most common starting points. These exercises work to strengthen the plantar fascia while improving its flexibility. As long as you follow the program, you should see a dramatic reduction in your symptoms over time.
Until then, your podiatrist will instruct you on how to properly ice and wrap your feet. To help with the process, mild medications and orthotics often come into play. Most plantar fasciitis orthotics can be easily inserted into your existing shoes to provide the increased support you need to stay comfortable.
Your doctor will only consider surgery if all other treatments fail. And that is quite rare in patients who are willing to follow their treatment plan for twelve months. Fortunately, we do now have less invasive procedures that can be used to remove the plantar fascia from the heel bone and place it in such a way that encourages the connective tissue to grow into a longer, more flexible ligament.