We treat many foot and ankle conditions here at Haro Podiatry & Laser Center, but heel pain treatment is an especially common service we provide for our patients. Part of the reason for this is the fact patients of all ages, lifestyles, and activity levels can be afflicted with pain and discomfort in the back of the foot. The good news is that Dr. Haro has experience and advanced treatment methods to help you find the relief you need!
Common Sources of Heel Pain
When everything performs as intended, it is easy to take our feet for granted and not think about all they do for us. Feet and ankles not only enable movement, but they also have to support the entire body when we stand. Whereas this typically goes unnoticed (unless a problem develops), the lower limbs endure tremendous amounts of physical force. Even just walking at a normal pace places up to two times your bodyweight on a foot as it lands while taking a step!
In addition to the amount of physical forces we place on our feet every day, another reason heel pain is so prevalent is the fact that several conditions can cause this problem. Some of the more common ones include:
- Plantar fasciitis. The most common source of heel pain for adults, this condition is caused by an inflamed tissue (plantar fascia) running along the underside of your foot. When subjected to excessive stress, the fascia sustains tiny rips and becomes inflamed as a result. Your body then works to repair the fascia during periods of rest, but the tears can reopen with the first steps afterwards. For this reason, a primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain in the morning.
- Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon is the body’s strongest tendon, and is quite durable, but it’s not infallible. When overworked, the Achilles becomes inflamed. Pain in the back of the heel is typically strongest during, or immediately following, physical activity and will become stronger over time. This injury often happens to long-distance runners and “weekend warriors” (who sporadically engage in intense physical activity).
- Sever's disease. Plantar fasciitis is the leading cause of heel pain for adults, but Sever’s is the most common source for kids (especially adolescents). Sever’s isn’t actually a disease, though. Instead, it is a condition that occurs when the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. This leads to tightness and pulling in the back of the heel. The pain is often worse with physical activity and treatment is centered on relieving it (since the condition will resolve itself over time, without any long-term issues).
Heel Pain Treatment and Prevention
The good news when it comes to these various conditions is that they are often successfully resolved with the use of conservative (non surgical) treatment. There are many different options and methods we may use when creating our unique treatment plan specifically for you. Some of the components include rest, ice, medication, stretches, physical therapy, footwear changes, orthotic devices, and corticosteroid injections.
An advanced treatment option we are proud to offer our patients is laser therapy. This state-of-the-art technique uses the energy from concentrated light beams (laser light) to stimulate cellular growth and repair. The energy can penetrate through body tissues, without needing surgical incisions or intervention.
Naturally, the best form of treatment is to prevent a condition from developing in the first place. The good news is that most of the common causes of heel pain are fairly preventable. Measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing heel pain include:
- Wearing proper footwear. Make sure you have the right shoes for the sports and exercises you do. More than simply “wearing running shoes if you run often,” always pick footwear that fits correctly, has a solid construction, and provides ample cushioning and arch support. Beyond footwear for physical activities, limit the amount of time you spend wearing high-heeled shoes. Pumps and stilettos may look cute, but they cause excessive strain on the connective tissues in your feet and lower legs. If you wear these kinds of shoes for work, consider wearing more-sensible models on your commute to and from the office.
- Easing into physical activity. When starting a new running or exercise program, give your body time to adjust to the increased forces you’re placing on it. To keep your feet and ankles safe, start any new workout program at an easy level and then slowly ramp up your intensity and duration over time. A good target is a roughly 10% increase per week. Doing more will increase your injury risk.
- Stretching. Before any individual workout session or athletic activity, take about 5-10 minutes for a proper warm-up, followed by some dynamic stretches targeting the muscles you are going to use. This is a smart approach to prepare your body for the activity you are about to perform. There are many injuries that could be prevented by warming up and stretching first.
- Cross-training. Instead of running six days a week or only relying on high-impact sports like basketball or tennis for fitness, mix in a couple of sessions of cycling, swimming, or walking to reduce the total amount of physical stress on your feet and heels.
Remember, if you are experiencing pain in your heels, this is not normal. Instead, it is your body’s way of telling you that there is an existing problem. Fortunately, we can help! Contact Haro Podiatry & Laser Center by calling 973-755-7775 to request your appointment with either of our conveniently-located offices in Clifton and Jersey City.