My heel hurts – what should I do?

Your heels take a pounding every day. They absorb much of the impact when you walk, run, and stand for long periods. They have muscles and ligaments that work hard and get strained by activity. Your heel bone is also the largest bone in your foot.

So it’s no surprise that heel pain is one of the most common complaints podiatrists see every day. The problem is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for heel pain. Your treatment will depend on what’s causing your pain and your individual health history.

Pain on the Bottom of the Heel

Does it hurt directly under your heel? This could be a result of:

  • Stepping on something hard, such as a rock. This is called a “stone bruise,” which injures the pad under your heel. Although you may not see signs of a typical bruise with discoloration, a stone bruise can be painful. It usually heals well on its own within a few weeks.

  • Plantar fasciitis. This common condition is caused by straining the plantar fascia, which is the band of tissue that covers the bottom of your foot. When the plantar fascia gets overstretched from excessive running or improper footwear, the pain will become noticeable in the heel. Often the pain is worse in the morning, and gets better after you move around. Without treatment, plantar fasciitis often gets worse with time and can lead to bone spurs.

Both of these conditions often heal with rest, ice, and using pain relievers as directed. But, if your heel pain doesn’t improve with these measures, it’s best to have a podiatrist evaluate your problem. Often a custom orthotic, therapy, stretching or other non-invasive treatment can address the issue and achieve relief.

Pain Behind the Heel

Pain behind the heel is typically not caused by stepping on something or plantar fasciitis. Usually, this signals a problem with your Achilles tendon, which may include:

  • Bursitis of the heel. This is also called retrocalcaneal bursitis, and is swelling of a fluid-filled sac at the back of your heel. This bursa is located where the Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. Inflammation is often caused by doing too much exercise too quickly, and the pain is typically worse during activity.

  • Achilles tendinitis. This is inflammation in the Achilles tendon itself, which connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. Similar to bursitis of the heel, it is often caused by overuse or too vigorous of an exercise program, as well as tight calf muscles. This condition causes pain during walking or running, and you may be able to see swelling along the back of your heel area.

For these conditions, your podiatrist may recommend rest, ice, avoiding activities that cause pain, and special shoe inserts that help reduce strain on the Achilles tendon. Surgery is only recommended if the pain is severe and other measures haven’t been successful.

Don’t ignore heel pain, or it may get worse over time! Talk to an expert about your foot problems. Contact the office of Dr. Jeffery LaMour to get back on your feet again!

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