Heel Pain Podiatry Explained

Heel pain can be debilitating and should never be ignored. The best way to ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment is to consult a board certified podiatrist or foot specialist.

A podiatrist will take a detailed history and perform a thorough exam. He or she may order x-rays, an MRI or ultrasound for further diagnostic testing.

Causes

The most common cause of heel pain is damage to the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. This can be caused by overuse (running or standing for long periods of time), a sudden increase in activity, wearing shoes with poor support, having tight calf muscles or being overweight. A heel spur (a bony growth on the bottom of your heel) can also be a cause of pain.

Less common causes of heel pain include tarsal tunnel syndrome (compression of the posterior tibial nerve as it passes through the arch of your foot), calcaneal stress fracture, calcaneal apophysitis (irritation of the growth plate in the back of your heel) and Sever’s disease (a condition in active kids 8 to 14 that occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes irritated by repetitive running and jumping). If you’re experiencing achilles tendon pain in Adelaide, it’s essential to seek proper diagnosis and treatment.

To diagnose your heel pain, podiatrist will examine your foot, check for areas of tenderness and take X-rays. This will help them find the source of your heel pain and rule out other problems such as a stress fracture or arthritis. They may also order an MRI or ultrasound, which can show soft tissue injuries that X-rays don’t pick up. We can then work with your primary care doctor, physical therapists and holistic specialists to develop the best treatment plan for you.

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Diagnosis

Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential for effective treatment. If the underlying cause is not properly addressed, the pain can worsen, significantly impairing your quality of life.

The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis – damage or inflammation to the tight tissue ‘band’ that connects the heel bone to the base of the toes. It often occurs after an increase in exercise activity or intensity, sudden stretching of the foot or ankle, excessive weight or wearing poorly fitting shoes. Tight calf muscles or high arches can also contribute to heel pain.

A proper diagnosis is based on careful patient history, physical exam and diagnostic testing to rule out other etiologies. In some cases, it is necessary to have blood work done (erythrocyte sedimentation rate, anti-CCP antibodies and rheumatoid factor) to help determine if the symptoms are being caused by an inflammatory condition.

During the physical exam, the podiatrist will check the foot and ankle for tenderness, swelling, redness, bruising or a change in shape of the ankle or heel. They will also press on the bottom of the heel and move your foot and ankle around to see if there are any restrictions or if there is pain in certain positions. In some cases, an imaging test may be necessary for a closer inspection of the internal structures. If you’re experiencing discomfort related to your foot or ankle, consider consulting a specialist for expert evaluation and personalized treatment.

Treatment

A podiatrist can identify the cause of heel pain by talking to you and examining your foot and ankle. They will check your heel for swelling, tenderness, bruising, rash and other abnormalities. They will also gently move your foot and ankle and push (palpate) on different areas of your heel to see where the pain is located.

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Your podiatrist will recommend treatment for the specific condition causing your heel pain. This may include resting your feet as much as possible, icing them for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a day and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. In some cases, your podiatrist will provide you with special shoe inserts or orthotic devices that support the foot to relieve heel pain in the long term.

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain, caused when the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed. The plantar fascia is the longest ligament in your body and is responsible for absorbing most of the shock from walking, running and jumping. You can feel it if you run your finger along the bottom of your foot, across the arch, it’s a thin band of rope-like connective tissue. It can withstand up to 30 times your body weight. In more severe cases, your podiatrist will use plantar fasciitis Eastwood, SA treatment into the area of the fascia to help alleviate pain.

Prevention

The good news is that heel pain typically responds well to at-home treatment. A foot and ankle doctor can help patients understand the condition and find a comprehensive plan for managing it.

The most important preventative steps involve reducing the amount of stress on the feet. This means wearing the right shoes for physical activity and replacing them regularly. It also means taking breaks from high-impact activities, such as running and jumping, to let the feet recover. Excess weight is another factor that increases the risk of developing a heel problem, such as plantar fasciitis, because it adds to the load placed on the feet.

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If you do experience heel pain, it’s a good idea to see a podiatrist for an evaluation. Your foot and ankle specialist will perform a physical exam, ask questions about your symptoms, and take X-rays to determine what’s causing the pain in your heels.

Some types of heel pain are caused by overuse and can be prevented with the right footwear, such as shoes that cradle your heels, have plenty of room for your toes to move, and provide good arch support. It’s also important to warm up and stretch before exercise or physical activity, and to gradually increase the intensity and duration of activities over time. Ice packs can also help reduce inflammation. A simple home ice pack can be made by wrapping a towel around a plastic bag filled with ice and applying it to the heel 3 or 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.