The 5 Things You Should Know about Heel Pain
The bone that forms the heel is only one of many bones in the feet—in fact, your feet contain about 25% of the 206 bones in your entire body. In addition to these bones, your feet contain more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. Altogether, that adds up to quite a bit of potential for something to go wrong.
About 75% of Americans have foot problems of some degree during their lives, and often that pain presents in the heel. Here’s what you should know about heel pain:
Common Causes of Heel Pain
One of the most common diagnoses for heel pain is plantar fasciitis, in which the fibrous band that supports the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. The symptoms for plantar fasciitis include a stabbing pain most often felt when you first step out of bed in the morning. Another common cause to consider is Achilles tendonitis, which causes pain at the back of the heel. Heel pain might also be associated with arthritis, bone spurs, structural deformities or bone bruises.
The simplest way to treat heel pain at home is to put your feet up and rest. Take the putting your feet up part of that literally; elevation can reduce inflammation, as can taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Wearing the Right Shoes
It’s important to wear supportive, padded shoes that aren’t too tight. Custom orthotics (meaning they’re fitted by a foot and ankle doctor) can also help to support the various tissues of the foot and relieve pain. Patients with chronic heel pain should never wear flip-flops.
When to Find a Podiatrist
The bottom line is that chronic pain should always be treated by a medical professional—in this case, a podiatrist. You may think of podiatrists as dealing with more mundane issues such as bunions or ingrown toenails, and podiatrists do treat 82% of corn and callus problems. But podiatrists can also diagnose the reason for your heel pain and recommend the best course of treatment. If a few days of rest at home don’t relieve your pain, it’s time to make an appointment.
Shockwave Treatment for Heel Pain
If more modest treatments have been unsuccessful, your podiatrist may recommend that you try shockwave treatment for heel pain. Shockwave therapy has been promoted particularly as a treatment for plantar fasciitis. Generally, three or more sessions are recommended, and in each session shockwaves are used to create micro trauma in the tissue of the plantar fascia. This triggers the body’s natural healing response, and increased blood flow brings more nutrients to the affected area. There are also high-energy shockwave therapies available that can be effective in fewer sessions, but patients should be aware that these are typically more painful.