Most pain associated with the heel can be tied to one disorder: plantar fasciitis . The plantar fascia is a long, thin ligament in the bottom of your foot that connects the heel to the front of your foot and helps support your arch.
Forces acting on the foot from excess pressure or repetitive activity cause the arch to flatten out. At the same time, the plantar fascia is trying to keep this from happening. These opposing forces put tremendous stress on the tissue, causing microtears in the ligament. When enough continuing stress exceeds the body’s ability to heal itself, the tissue under the heel becomes injured and painful.
The symptoms of plantar fasciitis include severe heel pain, especially first thing in the morning. Most people say that it hurts from "the instant their heel touches the ground." Some even feel pain and stiffness when starting to walk after sitting for a while. It gets worse after prolonged weight-bearing, walking, or standing. Pain can also radiate into the arch or sole of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis is often seen in persons over 40 years old or in those who are overweight. There is also an increase in visits to doctors during the spring and summer months as people resume activities involving walking or running. Among runners and other athletes, shoes that do not support the foot properly commonly lead to plantar fasciitis.
Diagnosis is most often made by assessing the place (middle of the bottom of the heel) and timing of the pain. The doctor will also question you on your activity levels and history of pain.
Some treatment options include:
If home remedies are not working, your doctor may try more aggressive treatments. These treatments may include:
Be aware that it may take several months for your injury to heal completely. Do not return to sports or normal activity until your doctor says it is okay to do so.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Podiatric Medical Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
Heel and arch pain. Foot and Ankle Center website. Available at: http://www.footankle.com/heel-arch-pain2.htm. Accessed January 31, 2014.
Plantar fasciitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 13, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2014.
Plantar fasciitis and bone spurs. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00149 . Updated June 2010. Accessed January 31, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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