Many people experience a pain in their heel that can be very irritating and can even make it hard for them to walk. Fortunately heel pain usually gets better on its own, however sometimes it will not and there may be things that can be done to get rid of the pain and discomfort. Often there are certain exercises and treatments that can help people with their pain and this article is designed to give an overview of heel pain and discuss some of the things that can be done for you.
What is it?
This article focuses specifically on the type of pain in the heel that causes pain and tenderness on the bottom of the heel as well as on the sole of your foot. There is a medical term for this type of pain known as plantar fasciitis. This forms its name, as there is a band of tissue that stretches out from ones heel through to the ball of the foot and this is known as the plantar fascia. There is a fat pad in the heel that sits over this plantar fascia and helps you to absorb the shock when you land on your heel and even when you are walking along the ground. This pain is much more common in the elderly and is it thought that this is due to the fact that the fascia fails to stretch as well as we get older. Alongside this the fat pad that protects you from shocks get thinner as you age and therefore becomes less effective. Some people even get a little piece of bone that grows where the fascia attaches to the heel and this can result in severe pain in the heel. Unfortunately not all heel pain can be explained in the above way and there are some people that we are really not sure why they get pain in their heel and so we just have to treat the pain with pain relief and hope that it gets better. There is some thought that the heel can be in pain as the result of the fascia becoming inflamed as the result of too much running or walking on a hard surface.
Usually heel pain is a sharp pain that may feel as though someone has stabbed you with a knife. Generally the pain is worse when you put weight on it when you first stand up, however the longer you stay standing on it the better your heel will feel. Pain that comes about in this way generally only causes pain on the bottom of your foot and you most likely will not suffer from pain at the back of your heel. Sometimes the inside of the arch of your foot may ache and you may feel as though all the pain is focusing on the centre of your heel. This pain can vary in severity and may be anything from a dull ache through to an excruciating pain that stops you from walking.
As mentioned earlier pain in the heel will generally go away on its own after a little bit of time. However many people experience a great deal of pain and they will require treatment for this. Some of the things that you can do to help your self include getting heat treatment or having a warm footbath, resting the foot, or taking painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. It is always good to keep exercising for your general health, however if you suffer from heel pain you should focus on exercises that do not require putting much weight on the heel, such as swimming and cycling.
There are exercises that you can do to stretch the plantar fascia and you need to do this three times a day. To complete these exercises you must sit down on a chair and cross the affected leg over your good leg. Put your fingers across the base of the toes of your affected leg and then pull the toes back until you feel a good amount of stretch in the arch of your foot. You will need to do this for about 3 to 8 weeks.
There are many different types of support that you can get to put into your shoes that may act to support your heel and reduce some of the pain. You can see a foot specialist known as a podiatrist who can have a special foot support called an insole made for you. They may also be able to offer you various methods of relieving your heel pain. Another thing that some people do is to wear a splint to bed at night and the podiatrist can advise you on the type of splint that may be effective for you.
Some people want to have surgery in order to cut the plantar fascia and relieve the pain. However there is not much research saying that this works and there are major complications with surgery that you should be aware of. Steroid injections and shockwave therapy are two other treatment methods that are not well researched and have not been shown to be particularly effective. One of the problems with a steroid injection is that the plantar fascia may rupture and in fact in one study this happened in 10% of people.
In more cases than not your heel pain will get better on its own. However it can take a long time to get back to normal and there are many things that you can try during this time to help relieve the pain.