Heel pain is one of the most common reasons patients visit a podiatrist. The foot and ankle doctors at The Podiatry Group of South Texas are familiar with treating this particular problem. Your treatment options will depend on what is causing your heel pain. Conditions that most often cause heel pain include plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. It can also cause pain in the arch of the foot. The pain is usually sharp and localized and more prevalent with the first steps in the morning, after awakening from sleep.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the thick band of connective tissue that runs from your toes to heel (called the plantar fascia) is repeatedly strained. Little tears may develop in the tissue, and it can become inflamed.
Heel spurs are calcium growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone. They often grow as a result of plantar fasciitis. Many people with heel spurs don’t experience any pain. When pain does occur, it is typically due to the soft tissue injury.
The plantar fascia supports the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber as you walk. When it becomes damaged and tight, it causes the signature symptoms of plantar fasciitis: heel pain and arch pain.
Anything that strains the fascia can cause plantar fasciitis, including long periods of standing on hard surfaces, inadequate arch support, an uneven gait, and obesity. Tight calf muscles are a common contributor to the problem because they make the ankle less flexible, which in turn tightens the plantar fascia when walking.
Plantar fasciitis is also common among athletes, especially runners. It tends to recur in people who have had it before, and it can worsen over time.
Most people recover with conservative treatment such as rest, stretching exercises, wearing proper footwear with orthotics for arch support, night splints that stretch your calf and foot arch while you sleep, and cold therapy (for example, rolling the sole of your foot over a frozen water bottle). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and cortisone injections can relieve pain. Even so, healing can take months.
In some cases, your podiatrist may recommend shockwave therapy (see below) or surgery. Surgical treatment of plantar fasciitis includes procedures to remove scar tissue buildup from the plantar fascia, lengthen the calf muscle, or detach the plantar fascia from the heel.
Another common cause of heel pain is Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to the heel bone, is the largest tendon in the body. It most often becomes inflamed after years of repetitive strain. Like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis is common among runners.
Achilles tendonitis may also occur in children as they go through growth spurts, during which the calf muscles and Achilles tendon may become tight, putting stress on the heel.
While pain can occur within the tendon itself, many people feel pain in the back of the heel where the tendon attaches to the heel bone. Bone spurs may also develop with this condition when damaged tendon fibers harden at the point of attachment to the bone.
Achilles tendonitis typically responds to nonsurgical treatments, including rest, ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and wearing orthotics for support. If the pain persists despite these treatments, your podiatrist might recommend trying shockwave therapy.
If you’re experiencing heel pain, make an appointment to see an experienced podiatrist to find out its cause and your treatment options. For patients of The Podiatry Group of South Texas, we offer a wide range of treatment options, including shockwave therapy.
Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis, Tendonitis
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is particularly helpful when treating patients with chronic plantar fasciitis or tendon problems such as Achilles tendonitis that do not respond to other treatments after six months.
This noninvasive treatment involves gently moving a device outside the skin of the foot – similar to how an ultrasound is used – delivering sound waves that stimulate healing. The sound waves are higher-energy pulses than is used with lower-energy therapeutic ultrasound.
Your podiatrist may recommend that you avoid strenuous weight-bearing activities for a month or longer after the procedure because it can take time for the healing of damaged tissue to occur.
At The Podiatry Group of South Texas, we perform this safe and effective treatment in-house for your convenience. The procedure is typically completed within an hour or less.
Suffering from Heel Pain? Contact Our Podiatrists Today!
If you suffer from heel pain – whether caused by plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, or something else – find out how the foot and ankle specialists at The Podiatry Group of South Texas can help. Schedule your appointment by calling the location nearest you or use our online appointment request form.