Many patients who experience pain in their heels are afraid to see a podiatrist. Some may think that pain in their feet is not a big deal, while others are afraid to hear that they may need surgery to correct the problem. At Advanced Foot & Ankle, we take great care in diagnosing each case of heel pain, helping our patients to receive a treatment plan that works for them.
Common Heel Injuries (and How to Treat Them)
Since foot pain is always caused by an underlying condition, the first thing we will do is determine the type and severity of your heel injury. Pain in the heel may be caused by:
- Plantar fasciitis. Patients who have severe heel pain first thing in the morning are likely to be suffering from plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of heel pain. The long band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes (the plantar fascia) can become inflamed, causing severe pain when walking or standing. Many factors increase the risk of this condition, including flat feet, standing for long periods, increased weight, ill-fitting shoes, and heredity foot deformities. Custom orthotics are extremely successful in treating pain caused by plantar fasciitis.
- Heel spurs. Some patients may assume they are suffering from plantar fasciitis, when in reality their pain is caused by a heel spur. A bone spur is a buildup of calcium on bone or a ligament, and can occur anywhere on the body. In many cases, bone spurs do not cause pain; however, a bone spur on the heel may be sharp and painful when a patient places weight on the foot (the sensation may feel like a stone in a shoe). If the spur begins to burrow into the soft tissues of the heel, there are several options to relieve the pain. Custom orthotics can provide extra cushioning and allow the inflammation to heal, while cortisone injections may be needed to manage the pain. If the spur continues to cause discomfort, the patient may need surgery to remove the bone protrusion or reshape the heel bone.
- Achilles tendonitis. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, and connects the lower leg to the heel bone along the back of the heel. When you run, jump, walk, stand, or change direction, you place pressure on the Achilles tendon. If the tendon is overused (due to increased exercise or sudden stretching), it may become inflamed, causing tendonitis. If the tendon is not allowed to rest, it may suffer further damage or even rupture, tearing the tendon and requiring surgical repair.
- Bursitis of the heel. Bursitis may occur as a side effect of Achilles tendonitis, and the two conditions often go hand-in-hand. The retrocalcaneal bursa is a fluid-filled sac that provides cushioning between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon. Overuse of the Achilles tendon can irritate the bursa as well as the tendon, causing pain and stiffness in the heel.
The Right Diagnosis Is Key for Proper Treatment
If you have been treating your condition at home with mixed results, Advanced Foot & Ankle can help. Podiatrist Melissa Wawrzynek can give you a definitive answer as to what has been causing your pain, allowing you to start on the right path to cure your condition immediately. Call (610) 822-3900 to make an appointment with us today.