Heel pain is a common ailment that affects people of all ages, but it is more prevalent in adults over the age of 40. It is typically caused by various conditions that affect the foot, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and heel spurs. Heel pain can be mild or severe and can interfere with daily activities. In this blog post, we will discuss what type of doctor to see for heel pain, the common causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Common Causes of Heel Pain
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. It occurs when the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fascia) becomes inflamed or irritated. The plantar fascia acts as a shock absorber for the foot and helps to support the arch. When it is strained, small tears can develop in the tissue, leading to pain and inflammation that requires medical attention from an experienced Podiatrist.
Risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:
- Age – Plantar fasciitis is most common in adults over the age of 40.
- Obesity – Excess weight puts extra pressure on the plantar fascia.
- Foot mechanics – Flat feet, high arches, and abnormal walking patterns can all contribute to plantar fasciitis.
- Occupations – Jobs that require prolonged standing or walking on hard surfaces can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
- Activities – Running, jumping, and other high-impact activities can strain the plantar fascia and lead to plantar fasciitis.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed or irritated. This can be due to overuse or injury, and it can cause pain and stiffness in the back of the heel.
Risk factors for Achilles tendonitis include:
- Age – Achilles tendonitis is most common in adults over the age of 40.
- Gender – Men are more likely to develop Achilles tendonitis than women.
- Foot mechanics – Flat feet and high arches can increase the risk of developing Achilles tendonitis.
- Activities – Running, jumping, and other high-impact activities can strain the Achilles tendon and lead to Achilles tendonitis.
A heel spur is a bony growth that develops on the heel bone. It is often associated with plantar fasciitis and can occur when the plantar fascia is repeatedly strained. Our NJ Foot Doctors are best suited to treat heel spurs because they can cause pain and discomfort, especially when walking or standing.
Other Causes of Heel Pain that Require a Doctor to Treat
There are several other conditions that can cause heel pain, including:
- Stress fractures – Small cracks in the bones of the foot can cause heel pain.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome – A nerve in the foot becomes compressed, causing pain and numbness in the heel and other parts of the foot.
- Arthritis – Various forms of arthritis can cause heel pain, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Bursitis – Inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints, can cause heel pain.
- Infection – In rare cases, infections can cause heel pain.
Symptoms of Heel Pain
The symptoms of heel pain can vary depending on the underlying cause. Common symptoms include:
- Pain in the heel – This can range from mild to severe and can be felt in the back or bottom of the heel.
- Stiffness – The heel may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after periods of rest.
- Swelling – The heel may be swollen or red.
- Tingling or numbness – This can occur in the heel or other parts of the foot if nerve damage is involved.
- Difficulty walking – Heel pain can make it difficult to walk or stand for long periods of time.
Diagnosis of Heel Pain
To diagnose heel pain, a foot doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about the patient’s symptoms and medical history. They may also order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to look for abnormalities in the bones, muscles, or other tissues in the foot.
Treatment of Heel Pain
The treatment of heel pain depends on the underlying cause. In many cases, conservative treatments can help relieve pain and inflammation. These include:
- Rest – Avoiding activities that cause heel pain can help the tissue heal.
- Ice – Applying ice to the heel for 20 minutes at a time can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
- Stretching – Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce strain on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
- Shoe inserts – Arch supports, heel cups, and other shoe inserts can help support the foot and reduce strain on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
- Medications – Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Physical therapy – A physical therapist can help develop an exercise program to strengthen the muscles in the foot and improve flexibility.
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat heel pain. This is typically reserved for cases where conservative treatments have not been effective.
Prevention of Heel Pain
There are several steps that can be taken to prevent heel pain, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce pressure on the feet.
- Wearing properly fitting shoes that provide support and cushioning.
- Avoiding high-impact activities that can strain the feet.
- Stretching the feet and legs before and after exercise.
- Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of exercise to avoid overuse injuries.
Plantar Fasciitis can be a frustrating and debilitating condition, but with proper diagnosis and treatment from a doctor who specializes in Heel pain, it can often be effectively managed. If you are experiencing heel pain, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. By taking steps to prevent heel pain and managing it effectively when it does occur, you can help keep your feet healthy and pain-free.