What Is Heel Pain And Tips On How To Alleviate It

Heel Pain


Overview


Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in runners, eventually affecting 10 percent of the running community. While running, the plantar fascia works with the Achilles tendon to store and return energy. Because of its powerful attachment to the base of the toe, the plantar fascia stabilizes the inner forefoot as forces peak during pushoff. Unlike bone spurs and stress fractures of the heel, plantar fasciitis tends to produce pain during the pushoff phase while running, not during initial contact. A simple way to tell if you have plantar fasciitis versus a heel spur/stress fracture is to walk on your toes: heel spurs and heel stress fractures feel better while you walk on your toes, while plantar fasciitis typically produces more discomfort when you shift your weight onto your toes.






Causes


Plantar fasciitis is a painful disorder in the lower part of your foot usually around the heel. That pain usually hurts as you get up in the morning when you try to stand on your feet, or after any periods of inactivity. It is a disorder of a tough and strong band that connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar Fasciitis is caused by injuring that tough band on the bottom of the foot. The following may be the causes of plantar fasciitis. Tight calf muscles or tight Achilles tendon produces repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia. Gait and balance Problem may be a dominant cause of this disorder. Many people have a special style of walking, with something unique that causes some kind of imbalance in their body. It might be something like locked knees, feet that turn-out, a weak abdomen etc. This imbalance may place some pressure on the fascia, which eventually causes plantar fasciitis. Weak foot muscles don’t give enough support to the plantar fascia. The small muscles in the foot give the foot its shape by keeping the bones in place and by expanding and contracting to make a movement. Weak foot muscles will allow greater stress on the fascia. Foot anatomical problems such as flat feet or high arches can make the fascia ligament work or stretch abnormally. Flattening of the fat pad at the sole of the feet under the heels is a Degeneration process that is caused by poor footwear or by age. Shoes that have no proper heel cup can flatten that fat pad quite quickly and cause this disorder. Walking in shoes which do not have good arch support is considered to be a cause of plantar fasciitis. Wearing inadequate or worn out shoes may place more stress on the fascia ligament. If you wear shoes that don't fit you by size or width, you may put your feet under excessive stress. Overweight Men and women are more vulnerable to developing the condition because of the excess weight on the foot. Pregnant women are at risk due to gaining weight through pregnancy and due to the pregnancy hormones that make ligaments loosen and relax. Sudden increase of activity like starting to run long distance or complete change of daily activity can cause heel pain and this disorder. Practice of repetitive athletic activities, like long distance running, playing a ball game, dancing or jumping, is a common cause for the disorder. Actually it is considered as one of the most common running injuries. Spending long periods of time on your feet everyday can cause plantar fasciitis. Working on your feet a few hours a day evey day may be the reason for your heel pain.






Symptoms


Plantar fasciitis sufferers feel a sharp stab or deep ache in the middle of the heel or along the arch. Another sign is the morning hobble from the foot trying to heal itself in a contracted position overnight. Taking that first step causes sudden strain on the bottom of the foot. The pain can recur after long spells of sitting, but it tends to fade during a run, once the area is warmed up.






Diagnosis


Physical examination is the best way to determine if you have plantar fasciitis. Your doctor examines the affected area to determine if plantar fasciitis is the cause of your pain. The doctor may also examine you while you are sitting, standing, and walking. It is important to discuss your daily routine with your doctor. An occupation in which you stand for long periods of time may cause plantar fasciitis. An X-ray may reveal a heel spur. The actual heel spur is not painful. The presence of a heel spur suggests that the plantar fascia has been pulled and stretched excessively for a long period of time, sometimes months or years. If you have plantar fasciitis, you may or may not have a heel spur. Even if your plantar fasciitis becomes less bothersome, the heel spur will remain.






Non Surgical Treatment


A change to properly fitting, appropriate shoes may be useful in some patients. Some individuals wear shoes that are too small, which can exacerbate many types of foot pain. Patients often find that wearing shoes with thicker, well-cushioned midsoles, usually made of a material like high-density ethylene vinyl acetate (such as is found in many running shoes), decreases the pain associated with long periods of walking or standing. Studies have shown that with age, running shoes lose a significant portion of their shock absorption. Thus, simply getting a new pair of shoes may be helpful in decreasing pain. For individuals with flat feet, motion control shoes or shoes with better longitudinal arch support may decrease the pain associated with long periods of walking or standing. Motion control shoes usually have the following characteristics: a straight last, board or combination lasted construction, an external heel counter, a wider flare and extra medial support. A change in shoes was cited by 14 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis as the treatment that worked best for them.


Heel Discomfort






Surgical Treatment


The majority of patients, about 90%, will respond to appropriate non-operative treatment measures over a period of 3-6 months. Surgery is a treatment option for patients with persistent symptoms, but is NOT recommended unless a patient has failed a minimum of 6-9 months of appropriate non-operative treatment. There are a number of reasons why surgery is not immediately entertained including. Non-operative treatment when performed appropriately has a high rate of success. Recovery from any foot surgery often takes longer than patients expect. Complications following this type of surgery can and DO occur! The surgery often does not fully address the underlying reason why the condition occurred therefore the surgery may not be completely effective. Prior to surgical intervention, it is important that the treating physician ensure that the correct diagnosis has been made. This seems self-evident, but there are other potential causes of heel pain. Surgical intervention may include extracorporeal shock wave therapy or endoscopic or open partial plantar fasciectomy.






Stretching Exercises


Exercises designed to stretch both your calf muscles and your plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs under the sole of your foot) should help relieve pain and improve flexibility in the affected foot. A number of stretching exercises are described below. It's usually recommended that you do the exercises on both legs, even if only one of your heels is affected by pain. This will improve your balance and stability, and help relieve heel pain. Towel stretches. Keep a long towel beside your bed. Before you get out of bed in the morning, loop the towel around your foot and use it to pull your toes towards your body, while keeping your knee straight. Repeat three times on each foot. Wall stretches. Place both hands on a wall at shoulder height, with one of your feet in front of the other. The front foot should be about 30cm (12 inches) away from the wall. With your front knee bent and your back leg straight, lean towards the wall until you feel a tightening in the calf muscles of your back leg. Then relax. Repeat this exercise 10 times before switching legs and repeating the cycle. You should practise wall stretches twice a day. Stair stretches. Stand on a step of your stairs facing upstairs, using your banister for support. Your feet should be slightly apart, with your heels hanging off the back of the step. Lower your heels until you feel a tightening in your calves. Hold this position for about 40 seconds, before raising your heels back to the starting position. Repeat this procedure six times, at least twice a day. Chair stretches. Sit on a chair, with your knees bent at right angles. Turn your feet sideways so your heels are touching and your toes are pointing in opposite directions. Lift the toes of the affected foot upwards, while keeping the heel firmly on the floor. You should feel your calf muscles and Achilles tendon (the band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your calf muscle) tighten. Hold this position for several seconds and then relax. Repeat this procedure 10 times, five to six times a day. Dynamic stretches. While seated, roll the arch of your foot (the curved bottom part of the foot between your toes and heel) over a round object, such as a rolling pin, tennis ball or drinks can. Some people find that using a chilled can from their fridge has the added benefit of helping to relieve pain. Move your foot and ankle in all directions over the object for several minutes. Repeat the exercise twice a day.

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