Several patients have come to me recently complaining of heel pain. Although the condition is common, it can impact the quality of your day-to-day life…and it certainly was for these folks. The good news, however, is that if a proper diagnosis of the symptoms can be made, then heel pain can be effectively treated.
Five Conditions Which Cause Heel Pain
Heel pain can be triggered by multiple factors and underlying issues. Which is why an accurate diagnosis is crucial to treat the condition.
Here is a list of five common causes of heel pain:
- Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a leading condition for heel pain in many cases. When the tight tissues forming the foot arch is inflamed or irritated it can lead to pain on the bottom of the heel. The pain is especially pronounced when weight is applied on the foot.
Patients will feel the pain most either when putting weight on the affected foot in the morning after waking up or when they stand up after sitting or resting for a long time.
- Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a nerve condition similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. While carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hand, tarsal tunnel syndrome affects the large nerve at the back of the foot. When this nerve is stressed it can cause heel pain.
In addition to pain, other symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include a numbing or tingling sensation in the affected area.
- Achilles Tendonitis
Heel pain can also be caused when the Achilles tendon, the tendon attached to the back of the heel bone, is inflamed. While in many cases, the pain is found to be more acute in the area which is just a little above the heel bone, this is not the case with every single patient.
Common symptoms include a nagging pain which can continue for prolonged periods of time, with a slow recovery extending into months or longer in some cases.
Retrocalcaneal Bursitis or Heel Bursitis
When the bursae (fluid-filled sacs which essentially cushion the joints) are inflamed, it can cause heel pain. Common symptoms of the condition include a sharp pain at the back of the heel, swelling and stiffness around the heel area, pain in the calf muscles while walking or running, and redness or warmth at the back of the heel.
Sometimes heel pain can be caused by stress fractures of the foot and ankle. The pain is triggered by a small crack in the bone or extreme bruising of the bone which is often a result of repetitive physical activity. Although stress fractures are more common in athletes like long-distance runners, it is not limited to just this group.
A change in the intensity of a workout, change in physical workouts or activity, or even conditions such as osteoporosis which tend to weaken the bone structure, can lead to stress fractures.
When to Seek Help for Heel Pain
Medical attention is necessary under any of the following conditions:
- If you find no improvement in the level of pain and other symptoms (swelling, tenderness) even after giving the area enough rest, applying ice packs, and taking over the counter pain medication.
- If you find it difficult to walk or apply weight on the affected part.
- If the pain in your heel continues for more than 3-4 days.
- You feel the pain mostly while resting or it regularly occurs at night.
- In addition to pain, you notice other symptoms such as swelling, tenderness, and redness at the back of the foot.
- If there is any sign of an infection or if you develop a fever or notice any other unusual symptom(s), you should seek medical attention immediately.
Dealing with Heel Pain
An accurate diagnosis is an important aspect of effective treatment and successful recovery.
Keep in mind that certain conditions which cause heel pain can be far more serious and lead to different sets of complications. And while in most cases, rest, stretching, and simple exercises, and application of ice packs can provide relief, in other cases, a more detailed and specific treatment plan might be required.
Consult with Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle
If heel pain is impacting your day-to-day life or if you are unable to find relief from the condition even after rest and medication, we at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle can help you. Connect with us here or give us a call today to set up an appointment!