Heel pain occurs if the heel is overused or injured. This can range from mildly annoying to debilitating. The foot and ankle are comprised of 26 bones along with several joints and tendons. It is important to note that the heel is the biggest bone in the foot. In most instances, if heel pain is present, a doctor must be consulted to determine the cause.
What are the usual causes?
Heel pain has a variety of causes that are linked with overusing the heel bone. The feet can be strained by pounding on solid surfaces, being overweight or using shoes that are ill-fitting.
Other common causes of heel pain include the following:
- Heel spurs – form if the lining covering the heel is stretched continuously
- Excessive pronation – foot rolls inward and the tendons and ligaments at the rear of the heel are excessively stretched
- Plantar fasciitis – occurs if the tendinous tissue that links to the heel to the ball of the foot is inflamed
- Achilles tendinitis – occur from inflammation of the Achilles tendon
When to consult a doctor
If heel pain develops, you can initially use home remedies such as adequate rest to ease the symptoms. In case the pain does not settle within 2-3 weeks, set an appointment with a doctor.
A doctor must be consulted right away if the following are present:
- Severe pain
- Abrupt pain in the heel
- Inability or difficulty walking
- Swelling or redness in the heel
If heel pain develops, several measures can be done at home to relieve the discomfort such as:
- Adequate rest
- Application of an ice pack for 10-15 minutes at least 2 times in a day
- Wearing shoes that properly fit
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Use a night splint that stretches the foot while sleeping at night
- Heel lifts or shoe inserts to minimize the pain
In case the home measures fail to work in alleviating the symptoms, a doctor should be consulted for further assessment.
Once the doctor determines the cause for the heel pain, the appropriate treatment can be started such as the following:
- Physical therapy – this involves strengthening the foot muscles and tendons to prevent further injury.
- Anti-inflammatory medications – these might be injected directly into the foot or taken orally.
- Provide adequate support to the foot by taping or using specialized footwear devices
- Surgery is recommended to fix the issue in rare instances but if often requires a longer recovery period and might not always relieve the pain.