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Understanding Heel Pain

Maybe you felt a sharp pain under the heel bone when you tried to get up in the morning. Maybe you developed a stiff discomfort at the back of your heel when you went running. Or maybe you’ve developed a hard bump that rubs against the back of your shoes. Heel pain can affect anyone and has a variety of different causes. Eliminating it requires diagnosing a specific condition and using targeted treatment to manage it.

Base of Your Foot

Your heel bone, or calcaneus, sits directly underneath your ankle and bears a significant amount of your body weight. It also absorbs a lot of the shock of your footsteps. It’s an important little bone with a number of different tendons and ligaments attached to it. With so much pressure and force being put on it, your heel is at risk for a variety of painful problems, all of which can make normal activities quite painful.

Your exact symptoms and how you developed the problem will largely depend on what condition you have, though most heel pain is an overuse injury. The pressure and repeated hard impacts on the hindfoot eventually become too much, and some tissue sustains damage. As an overuse injury, the pain does not improve on its own. Instead, it often worsens and may even become chronic.

Possible Conditions

The most common source of heel pain is plantar fasciitis . This is a swelling and thickening in the band-like ligament that attaches your heel to your toes. This band helps support your arch and absorb shock, but if pressure over-stretches it, the tissue becomes inflamed. You feel the pain underneath your calcaneus, particularly first thing in the morning or after long hours on your feet.

Several conditions cause discomfort at the back of the heel, including Achilles tendinitis, bursitis, Haglund’s deformity , and Sever’s disease . Each of these affects slightly different tissues attached to the calcaneus and surrounding areas. Other less common problems that may cause painful heels include nerve damage, fractures, ruptured connective tissue, tumors, and arthritis.

Chronic Heel Pain

The longer heel pain goes unaddressed, the more likely it will become chronic and hard to manage. Plantar fasciitis has a particularly high risk for this. As the ligament swells and thickens, it tightens. Continued pressure on this tightened band can lead to micro-tears in the tissue. This may lead to additional issues, like heel spurs. You may need more intense treatments to relieve pain that has become chronic—including surgery, if all other options have already been exhausted.

Reliving the Problem

The best way to eliminate heel pain of any kind is to deal with the problem promptly. Dr. Paul C. LaFata and our team here at West Lawn Podiatry Associates will carefully evaluate your lower limbs to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. Then, we can begin a treatment plan tailored for your needs.

How exactly your heels are treated will depend on the specific condition, but resting the foot and icing the painful area to decrease any inflammation will help. We may recommend medications to lower irritation as well. Often, physical therapy stretches are very beneficial for relieving tightness. Orthotics to accommodate biomechanical deficiencies may help as well. You may still need to make some shoe changes, too. If all conservative methods are ineffective, surgery may be an option for you.

Heel pain doesn’t have to control your life or limit your mobility. Each of the different causes can be diagnosed and managed. Don’t wait too long before seeking help for discomfort in your lower limbs—the sooner you treat the problem, the quicker it can be remedied. Call (610) 678-4581 or use our website to contact our West Lawn, PA, office for an appointment .