The heel bone is the largest of the 26 bones in the human foot. Like all bones, it is subject to outside influences that can affect its integrity and its ability to keep us on our feet. Heel pain, sometimes disabling, can occur in the front, back, or bottom of the heel.
When treated early, heel pain can often be addressed non-surgically. The podiatrists and surgeons of AFACC always work to conserve first and only suggest surgery when necessary.
To learn what heel pain treatment options are best for you and your feet, find the AFACC podiatry clinic nearest you or fill out the appointment form to the left. For more information about heel spur pain and its causes, symptoms & treatment options, read below.
What Causes Heel Pain?
Heel pain is normally caused by an abnormal walking gait that results in too much stress being placed on the heel bone and soft tissues attached to it.
Heel pain may also be the result of an injury, or a bruise incurred while:
- walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces
- wearing poorly constructed footwear
- being overweight
Another common cause of heel pain is the heel spur – a bony growth on the underside of the heel bone. The spur, visible by X-ray, appears as a protrusion that can extend forward as much as half an inch. When there is no indication of bone enlargement, the condition is sometimes referred to as “heel spur syndrome.
Heel spurs result from:
- strain on the muscles & ligaments of the foot
- stretching of the tissue connecting the heel & ball of the foot
- repeatedly tearing away of the membrane that covers the heel bone
Heel pain sometimes results from excessive pronation. Pronation is the normal flexible motion and flattening of the arch of the foot that allows it to adapt to ground surfaces and absorb shock in the normal walking pattern.
Excessive pronation, especially excessive inward motion, can create an abnormal amount of stretching on the ligaments & tendons attaching to the bottom back of the heel bone.
Some general health conditions can also bring about heel pain. These can include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis & Gout – usually manifests itself in the big toe joint, but can cause heel discomfort in some cases
- Bursitis – a small, irritated sack of fluid or other soft-tissue growth. Such heel pain may be associated with or mimic the pain of a heel spur
- Haglund’s deformity – a bone enlargement at the back of the heel bone that can be aggravated by the height or stitching of a heel counter of a particular shoe
- Achilles tendinitis – the tearing or stretching of the tendon along its length or at its insertion on to the heel bone can lead to inflammation, pain, and the possible growth of a bone spur on the back of the heel bone
- Bone bruises – inflammation of the tissues that cover the heel bone. A bone bruise is a sharply painful injury caused by the direct impact of a hard object or surface on the foot
- Fracture – stress fractured of the Heel bone can also occur, though infrequently
Diagnosing Heel Pain & Spurs
If pain and other symptoms of inflammation—redness, swelling, heat—persist, you should limit normal daily activities and contact a podiatrist.
The podiatric physicians at AFACC will examine the area and may perform diagnostic X-rays to rule out problems of the bone.
Heel Pain & Spur Treatment
Heel pain, especially when addressed early, can often be treated non-surgically. Early treatment might involve:
- oral or injectable anti-inflammatory medication
- exercise and shoe recommendations
- taping or strapping to place stressed muscles & tendons in a physiologically restful state
- use of shoe inserts or orthotic devices
Physical therapy may be used in conjunction with such treatments.
A functional orthotic device may be prescribed for correcting biomechanical imbalance, controlling excessive pronation, and supporting of the ligaments and tendons attaching to the heel bone. It will effectively treat the majority of heel and arch pain without the need for surgery.
For more information about Heel pain or to have your feet assessed, contact us today to schedule an appointment at the AFACC clinic nearest you.