Have you ever felt an intense pain in heel of foot when walking, running or after overnight sleep? Each month, 300,000 Americans are searching the internet for information about heel pain and a suitable solution to get rid of the pain in heel, just like you.
Heel Pain - Causes, Prevention and Treatment
The intense, sharp heel pain we are talking about is not something that occurs suddenly, but builds up over time. The pain is felt most at morning times and starts with one foot though it's quite common to have pain in both the feet.
Often times, the cycle of pain follows a sequence of activities: you regularly walk, run or stand for long hours, sudden pain in the heel is felt, you rest your feet, ice or stretch a few times, the pain gets reduced, you sleep at night or rest your feet for long hours then take the first few steps after long rest and the pain in heel is back with vengeance.
Sharp Pain in Heel - Why Do You Feel it?
You feel the sharp pain in heel when a band of fatty tissue in your heel known as the plantar fascia, becomes irritated or inflamed. Plantar fascia supports the arch of your foot by connecting your heel bone to the toe.
When the plantar fascia becomes thick and weak due to a number of reasons (causes mentioned below), you feel the heel pain. This condition of your plantar fascia is medically termed Plantar Fasciitis.
Heel Pain Causes - Felt after Running, Walking and Long Rest
Heel pain is caused due to a number of factors. These are:
- Obesity has been found to be one of the most common heel pain causes. Obesity was a contributing factor among 70% of people affected by heel pain and plantar fasciitis (Ref : Wikipedia)
- Unusual walking style when the feet are rolled inwards just after taking stride, something like a stallion gait
- Poorly fitted shoes have been found to be quite a common contributing factor to heel pain. Often times, the person suffering from foot pain doesn't realize this. There are specialized shoes for plantar fasciitis which support the arch to give faster pain relief. These are best shoes for heel pain as they have extra cushioning and shock absorption which offer multiple benefits other than faster relief from achilles heel pain.
- Hard surfaces, when jumped, run or walked upon put extra pressure on achiles tendon and plantar fascia tissue making them become weak and thick
- Disorders like diabetes or arthritis can also cause heel pain
Heel Pain Relief - Treatment
When it comes to heel pain treatment, most people make the mistake of thinking of it as one time action. Sure, it begins as one time action but we must not forget the main cause of heel pain which is weakening of fascia tissue in our heel. The "treatment" is not complete before we get our healthy foot back.
That is why I look at heel pain relief as two stage process.
- The first stage is obviously the urgent matter - getting heel pain relief as soon as possible. This is short term treatment which I have discussed in the other page here.
- The second stage is the long term treatment which involves a series of activities, exercises, stretches, diet plan etc which I have discussed in the other page here.
As the first step, you can start with these simple and effective heel pain stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis.Apart from the above treatment, your arches need additional support to heal faster.
You can do this using shoes with extra cushioning, compression socks, or shoe inserts. In case of severe pain, a night splint may be used though in general, I recommend using the other support i.e. shoes, socks or shoes inserts as night splints are generally cumbersome and inconvenient.
Here is a 4 minute video from a doctor at National Health Services (NHS) of the UK, who explains the heel pain causes, prevention and treatment in simple words.
How to Prevent Heel Pain
To prevent heel pain, one needs to watch out for obesity. Extra body weight catalyzes any inflammation of plantar fascia to become full blown pain in heel of foot. This has to be approached in many ways - unfortunately that is not the scope of this article. If the weighing scale tells you about extra weight, you need to address the issue and maintain healthy weight as much as you can.
Wearing proper shoes is another proven way to prevent foot pain. I have detailed how qualifications of best shoes for heel pain here.
You need to practice the proper way to warm up and cool down while doing exercises, sports or any heavy physical activity.
Heel Pain in Kids
Heel pain in kids is called Sever’s disease. Children aged between 8 to 16 are likely to get affected by heel pain. The cause of Sever’s disease is completely different from the cause of heel pain in adults. Sever's disease occurs due to extra pressure put on the growth plate of the heel bone. This occurs with kids who are too active in physical activities like jumping, running and playing. This is not serious medical issue and can be treated with stretching of calf muscles, icing the affected area and resting.
There was a comprehensive research study carried out by Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Albany Medical College, Albany to understand the causes, symptoms, useful orthotic devices, treatment and prevention of plantar fasciitis, which is most common cause of heel pain.
The study concluded although plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, but it may also be caused due to certain neurologic, rheumatologic or mechanical conditions. The diagnosis is not really complicated and it typically involves physical examination and the patient medical history to ascertain the specific cause.
The study clearly concludes that surgical option should be considered only after trying out conventional treatment methods like stretches and exercises, icing, hot/cold water treatment, orthotic supports like shoes, splints, compression socks, cortisone shots or even shock wave therapy. Many people suffering from severe heel pain think surgery is the only solution.
…When plantar fasciitis is diagnosed, conservative modalities must be tried first. Corticosteroid injections and extracorporeal shock-wave therapy may also be used. After 6 months of failed conservative treatments, surgical intervention should be considered…(Reference)
One point needs to be always remembered that heel pain does not indicate beginning of foot problem. It indicates that some underlying condition has chosen to come out in open. It's an announcement of some problem that probably you were either unaware of, or chose to ignore hoping it would subside on it's own. You must ascertain the cause of pain in heel of foot when walking, running or simply sitting. You don't want to wait for the foot problem to snowball into bigger health issue.
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