More than 100 tendons, 33 joints and 26 bones join together to form your foot. The largest bone present in your foot is the heel. When you wear ill-fitting shoes that inflame the delicate tissues or stamp your feet on the floor when participating in any kind of sports, there is a chance that you might suffer from heel pain, which is one of the most common ankle and foot problems. For some, this pain is mild in nature, while for others it can prove to be very debilitating. You will have to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of pain.
What Causes Heel Pain?
There are many causes for heel pain. It may be caused due to an illness such as rheumatoid arthritis that affects the entire body or caused by gout, but most of the time, it is localized in nature and targets only your feet. The following are some of the common causes that result in localized heel pain.
1. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by an inflammation of the fibrous band of tissue located on the sole of the foot known as plantar fascia. It is very painful and is usually caused due to the overstretching of the plantar fascia. Wearing ill-fitting shoes can result in plantar fasciitis and it occurs most commonly in athletes since they have to jog and run a lot.
2. Heel Spur
Heel spurs are characterized by an abnormal bone growth where the heel bone and plantar fascia meet with each other. It occurs mostly in joggers, runners and over-weight people as they strain their feet much more than other people.
3. Calcaneal Apophysitis
Calcaneal apophysitis is characterized by an irritation in the center of the heel bone because of an increase in your physical activity or wearing a new shoe. This kind of heel pain mostly occurs in children between the ages of 8 and 14.
Bursitis is characterized by inflammation of bursa which lines the joints and allows for easy movement of the tendons and muscles during joint movement. The pain in this condition usually occurs at the back of the heel.
5. Pump Bump
Pump bump, posterior calcaneal exostosis as it is medically known, is characterized by an abnormal bone growth at the backside of the heel. It mostly affects young women who have been wearing pump shoes for a long time.
6. Local Bruises
Accidental bruising or bumping of the heel can also result in heel pain. It is mostly caused when you are walking barefoot and accidentally stepping on a sharp object.
7. Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is characterized by an inflammation of the Achilles tendon and is caused by too much jumping when playing sports like badminton or basketball.
8. Trapped Nerve
Trapped nerve is a condition which is characterized by the compression of the lateral plantar nerves. It can result in numbness, pain and a tingling sensation in the heel. It is related with varicose veins, fractures or sprains.
How to Relieve Heel Pain at Home
Pain in heel can be easily treated at home. If the pain in your heel is of a mild nature, trying the following methods might work.
- Rest. Try not to walk on a hard surface and not to run or stand for lengthy time periods as they can pressurize your heel.
- Icing. For 15 to 20 minutes, put a bag of frozen peas or an ice pack on your heel. Perform this method at least thrice a day.
- New shoes. Only wear the shoes that provide support to your heels and fit you properly. If you are an athlete, it is important that you keep on replacing your shoes regularly and buy only those shoes that are suitable for your particular sport.
- Foot supports. You do not require custom-made orthotics for treating your heel pain. Wedges or heel cups available in drugstores can sometimes offer sufficient relief.
- Over-the-counter pain medications.The pain and inflammation that you are having in your sore heel can be reduced by using ibuprofen or aspirin.
How Is Heel Pain Treated Medically?
You will have to consult with your doctor if the home care remedies do not have any effect on the heel pain you have been having. The doctor will inquire about your condition and symptoms and will conduct a physical exam as well. He might ask for an X-ray to diagnose the reason for the pain in your heel. After having diagnosed the cause for your pain, the doctor will begin the treatment that is appropriate for your condition.
Physical therapy is the usual and first treatment that is asked by most doctors. Since physical therapy can strengthen the tendons and muscles in your foot, it can stop your heel from getting damaged further. Anti-inflammatory medications can be prescribed by your doctor if your pain starts troubling you more often. You can either take these medications orally or inject them directly in your foot.
Using specialized footwear and taping the foot are among the recommendations that your doctor might suggest if he thinks that you need more support for your foot.
Surgery is most likely to be suggested by your doctor only in rare cases. The reason for this is that heel surgery does not always provide relief from the pain you are having and also requires a much longer recovery time.
How Can Heel Pain Be Prevented?
Prevention of some cases of heel pain is almost impossible. However, heel injuries can be averted by taking some simple and easy steps. So, if possible, you'd better:
- Wear shoes that support your foot and fit them properly
- Wear shoes that are comfortable for performing physical activities
- Never exercise before stretching your muscles
- Not exhaust yourself when doing physical activity
- Eat a balanced diet
- Take rest immediately if you feel pain in your muscles
- Keep your weight under check