If heel pain is a persistent presence in your life, the question of why your heels hurt might not be so important to you as what you can do to make that pain go away.
However, determining the root causes of your heel pain is the first and arguably most essential step toward effective treatment. There is no one “cure-all” remedy for heel pain. A course of treatment must be tailored toward the correct underlying causes to yield the best results.
There is a chance you might have already learned this lesson firsthand if you have already tried one or two treatments for heel pain at home and were disappointed by a lack of any substantial relief. The good news is that you likely don’t have some form of invincible heel pain; you just haven’t yet tried a treatment that directly addresses the causes behind your case.
Heel Pain Has More Causes than You Might Think
It can be easy to think of “heel pain” as a singular condition, but it’s more appropriate to see it as a symptom of many other conditions. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and bursitis can all cause heel pain, for example, but all directly affect different parts of the foot.
Different conditions can cause heel pain that feels differently or is in a different location of the heel. Let’s take a closer look at the above conditions we just mentioned.
- Plantar fasciitis is strain and aggravation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue that runs through the arch, connecting the heel bone and the base of the toes. Heel pain from this condition is typically felt beneath the heel or a bit closer to the arch and tends to be at its worst when getting out of bed in the morning or moving after a long period of inactivity.
- Achilles tendinitis is strain and inflammation of the Achilles tendon, connecting the heel bone to the calf muscles. Heel pain here tends to be felt more along the back of the heel or just above it and tends to be worst during or just after activity.
- Stress fractures are hairline cracks that develop on the surface of a bone (for this case, the heel bone) due to long periods of repetitive stress with little to no opportunity for recovery. The pain of a stress fracture tends to be worst during activity and is felt along the underside of the heel.
- Bursitis is the inflammation of a fluid-filled sac located that provides cushioning between bones and tendons. Heel pain from bursitis tends to be felt along the back of the heel, and becomes worse with activity and sometimes when standing on your toes.
The more we know about your symptoms, the more information we will have to make a fast and accurate diagnosis. So never hesitate to let us know anything and everything about your heel pain, including how it feels, where exactly you feel it, and when it tends to be most and least severe.
Getting to the Source of Heel Pain
Even when we pin down the condition responsible for heel pain, that is not always enough information to provide the most effective treatment. The same condition can have different underlying causes from patient to patient as well.
Let’s take two example patients who both have plantar fasciitis. One spends most of their day standing in one spot on a factory floor, while the other is a distance runner. The first might have plantar fasciitis due to the force of their own weight being so steadily on their feet for so long, especially if they are working on a hard surface. The cause of the runner’s plantar fasciitis might be related more to the repetitive impacts of running.
But that’s not all! One, both, or neither of the two patients could also have other contributing factors to their condition. They might have an abnormality in foot structure that causes excess weight to shift to vulnerable areas as they stand or move, or their footwear may not be properly accommodating their daily needs.
Determining the best course of treatment for any heel pain patient means not only identifying the condition causing the heel pain but also all the factors contributing to it. If we only address the symptoms but not those underlying causes, the chances are likely that a patient will either not experience optimal relief, or the problem will come back at a later date.
Finding Relief from Your Heel Pain
Whether your heel pain has been a recent development or with you for some time, Advanced Foot & Ankle can help you find the relief you deserve.
We are not only well versed in the multiple causes of heel pain, but we also have the knowledge and tools to effectively address them, too. Some cases may require more traditional methods of treatment such as rest, ice, and stretching. Others might benefit best from more advanced treatments such as custom orthotics or laser therapy.
If you are concerned that surgery may be your only option to address your heel pain, please know that the vast majority of heel pain cases can be effectively treated within a few months without the need for surgery, using only conservative methods. Surgery is a rare consideration, and we will always discuss all of your potential options and answer any questions you may have so you can make an informed decision on how you wish to move forward with treatment.