Sometimes, heel pain makes itself known as a persistent, dull ache. Other times, it jolts with pain that shoots up your leg with each step. Either way, it can keep you from doing the things you love, or even getting through an ordinary day comfortably.
What Are the Causes of Heel Pain?
Although there are several possible heel pain diagnoses, two stand out as being the most common. Pain under the heel is usually caused by plantar fasciitis, while pain in the back of the heel is most likely Achilles tendinitis.
The telltale symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp, stabbing pain right after getting out of bed or up from a seated position after a long period of time.
In this condition, muscle tissue that crosses the bottom of the feet from heel to toe (called the plantar fascia) becomes torn or inflamed. The fascia tends to contract when not bearing weight. Standing up again forces it to suddenly and uncomfortably lengthen, causing pain that’s sharp at first but then subsides.
Plantar fasciitis is common among runners, but can be caused by many factors. Poor shoe support, foot deformities like flat feet, abnormal gait patterns, jobs or hobbies that require a lot of standing, and obesity are examples of other risk factors.
Although the Achilles (also known as the heel cord) is the thickest and strongest tendon in the body, it is also one of the most frequently injured due to the incredible weight and stress it must endure. Under repetitive pressure, the tendon fibers can break down, degenerate, or become inflamed. This often occurs near the back of the heel, where the tendon itself inserts into the heel bone.
Pain tends to be the worst the day after strenuous exercise, rather than during or immediately after. Other common symptoms include stiffness along the back of the leg (especially in morning), swelling, and tenderness.
How Is Heel Pain Treated?
You can usually treat mild heel pain by yourself at home with a little rest and icing. However, if heel pain is tough enough to get in the way of daily living—or your home care methods aren’t working—you should call one of the offices of the Advanced Foot and Ankle Centers of Illinois.
Common treatments we may prescribe include:
- Pain medications (over-the-counter or prescription).
- Icing. Be careful not to apply ice directly to skin, or for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Steroid injections.
- Stretching exercises to both strengthen and stretch the injured tissues.
- Night splints. These can help keep your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon lengthened while sleeping.
- Custom orthotics. All our offices feature 3-D scanning technology for custom orthotics, which allows us to fit you with the most precise and effective inserts available.
- Other advanced treatments. Some of our offices are equipped with additional treatment options, including MLS laser therapy, shockwave therapy, and Aquaroll aquatic foot therapy.
Fortunately, conservative treatments such as these are usually effective at eliminating your painful symptoms, allowing you to return to normal activities. In rare cases, however, surgery may be necessary.
If heel pain is becoming an unwelcome component of your day-to-day life, rely on our experience and give our team a call. We have offices in Chicago, Joliet, Orland Park, Palatine, Schaumburg, Waukegan, and Kenosha to serve the greater Chicagoland area.