Heel Pain & What Can be Done

Have you ever woken up one morning, eager to start the day and hopped out of bed only to be met with a crippling pain in your heel? The kind where you nearly fall over and have to immediately sit down? Well you’re not the only one. According to the AnkleNFootCenters a study by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, quoted approximately 11-15% of Americans see their podiatrist for heel pain each year.  We think it’s closer to 20%-especially for active adults.

But what exactly is heel pain? Heel pain is a sharp pain originating underneath the heel or sometimes behind the heel known as Achilles tendonitis. Read on to learn causes, symptoms, and treatment options of each.

Tight Calves
The effects of disproportionately training opposing muscles in our body can be agonizing. An imbalance of agonist and antagonist muscles groups can have painful and damaging effects to our body and joints. But what are these muscles exactly? Agonist muscles are the prime movers and contract as the antagonist muscles relaxes and provides support of the opposing movement. However when one of these muscles is trained more than the other an imbalance occurs causing strain and possible injury. For example, having strong quadriceps but weak hamstrings can cause knee pain and cartilage degeneration. A strong iliopsoas muscle and weak gluteus muscle (caused by prolonged sitting) can cause lumbar strain and back pain.
Now that you have a little background as to how these muscles work, let’s explain how tight calves are responsible for heel pain. Prevalent in runners or athletes, the calf muscle  becomes stronger than its antagonist muscles in the front of the ankle and more pull is placed on the Achilles tendon which then inserts into the back of the heel bone. All this pull can cause an Achilles tendonitis or a form of heel pain. While this occurs mostly in athletes, it can also affect anyone who is exercising their calves regularly (climbing stairs etc.). Treatment often involves strengthening the front of ankle and stretching out  the Achilles and calf muscles.
Heel Spurs
Heel spurs develop from chronic pull of tight musculature attaching to the bone. A tight plantar fascia or a tight Achilles tendon causes increased calcium deposits and proliferates bone growth where they insert into the heel bone. Pain from heel spurs can be caused by old or ill-fitting footwear, repeated injury or trauma to the heel, or poor biomechanics. While heel spurs may not show symptoms, if you are getting pain it is highly recommended you see your podiatrist for an x-ray or consultation.

Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is when the thick band of fascia that runs from your heel to your toes becomes inflamed due to repeated stretching and tearing. Pain will occur with first steps in the morning or when standing after prolonged periods of rest.  People at risk of this condition include those that stand long periods of time, being overweight, or  over exercising agonist muscles. According to a study done in 2009 (C), 6 in 10 Americans have experienced heel pain to the degree that it interfered with their daily lives. While not detrimental to your health, it does hurt quite a bit and can affect your productivity. Below we’ll discuss some of the common treatment options.

If you have any type of heel pain,or pain in your feet, it is encouraged to seek out a licensed professional who can help you get back on your feet (no pun intended) as quickly and safely as possible. Attempting to figure it out on your own may prolong healing or require more invasive therapies.

* Start with an X-Ray, you want to make sure it’s not a stress fracture or arthritis.
*Custom foot orthotics are provide comfort and stability for healing and preventing recurrence.
*Stretching calf muscles and plantar fascia. This is possibly the simplest option if you understand the antagonistic pairing of muscles. Although effects are not immediate, stick with it, it works!
*Corticosteroid injections
*Physical therapy
*Night splints
And two other options that aren’t readily available everywhere:
ePats– Special Painless Shock wave Therapy
PRP Injections- Using your own bodies regenerative cells!

So there you have it, a complete guide to heel pain. Again please do not try to self-medicate, go to your local Ankle N Foot Center and see one of their highly trained friendly physicians

A. https://www.acfas.org/Research-and-Publications/Clinical-Consensus…/Heel-Pain/
B. journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2325967118757983
C. https://www.apma.org/files/FileDownloads/APMAFootAilmentsSurveyNewsWorthyAnalysis012309.pdf

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