What is Heel Pain?
Heel pain is a common foot condition that affects people who run or jog regularly and the adults who are 40-60 years of age. It is estimated that one in 10 people will experience heel pain at least once at some point in their life.
What causes Heel Pain?
80% of the heel pain cases are caused by plantar fasciitis in which the plantar fascia (the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone with the rest of the foot) thickens and causes damage. This can happen suddenly if you are physically active or gradually, the latter usually affects adults who are 40 years of age or over. Other contributing factors include being overweight (BMI>30), wearing flat-soled shoes or standing for long periods of time.
There are also several less common causes such as repeated stress over the bone causing crack or fracture or inflammation of small fluid-filled sacs called bursa, located between tendons and bones. Women who wear high-heeled shoes may experience fat pad atrophy where the fat layer under the heel bone wears away due to stress on it.
What are the symptoms of Heel Pain?
Common symptoms are pain on the bottom of the heel, in the arch of the foot and the pain may increase over a period of months. Pain is usually worse when affected people get up in the morning or sit for long period.
How is Heel Pain treated?
One of the ways to treat heel pain is by resting the affected foot. Medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and ice packs wrapped in a towel can be applied to relieve pain.
Your GP or podiatrist may advise you to change your footwear to shoes that cushion and support the arches of your feet. Although high heels and heeled boots can provide short term pain relief by reducing pressure acting on the heels, they will worsen the condition in the long-term. Corticosteroid injection is another alternative medication that relieves inflammation. However, it may cause side effects like high blood pressure or weight gain.
Surgery is usually the last resort to release part of the plantar fascia from the heel bone and reduce the tension in it. The procedure may carry some risks like infection and numbness on the side of the heel after the surgery, and can take a while before the wound heals fully.
After the treatment, you should emphasize on long-term care where preventive measures are taken by maintaining a healthy weight and wearing an appropriate footwear.