Heel pain

Heel Pain

What is it?

One of the most common causes of heel pain syndrome is Plantar Fasciitis. This can be associated with heel spurs, heel bursitis and sometimes achilles heel pain more commonly known as Achilles Tendonitis or Achilles Tendinopathy. Some people may complain of sharp heel pain. In these situations, we need to consider the possibility of tarsal tunnel syndrome or nerve entrapment.

What causes pain in the heel of the foot?

There is a large ligament that exists under the sole of the foot.  It starts at the heel bone and inserts into the ball of the foot.  Any circumstances which cause excessive traction or pulling on this ligament cause the ligament to separate from the heel, fibre by fibre.  Gradual tearing of this ligament leads to inflammation.  A bone spur may form if this injury continues causing calcium to be deposited near the heel in an attempt to “glue” the detached fibres back onto the heel.  The bone spur itself has no nerve endings and doesn’t hurt, however, this may be a sign that the painful inflammation has been present for quite some time.

Inflammation of this plantar fascial ligament is called Plantar Fasciosis or more commonly known as Plantar Fasciitis.  This is what causes pain in most cases.

What are common heel pain causes?

Excessive traction or pulling on the plantar fascial ligament may be the result of:

  • Sudden injury or tearing of the plantar fascia similar to an ankle sprain
  • Recent weight gain can contribute to overloading
  • Increased activity level may also be a factor if exercising loads have changed recently
  • Changes in the footwear can alter forces on the plantar fascia
  • Abnormal flattening of the foot arches (i.e. excessive pronation) can be a major contributor to overloading
  • High arched/rigid feet may also experience abnormal tractional forces on the plantar fascia.
  • Nerve entrapment is another possible cause.

What is the best Heel Pain Treatment?

Treatment for heel pain and heel spurs must involve treatment of the symptoms as well as heel pain cause. When treating heel pain, we must address the acute inflammation as well as correcting any mechanical alignment issues causing excessive strain or abnormal tractional forces on the plantar fascia of the foot if we want to achieve any long term heel pain relief. 

Simple treatments include:

  • Calf stretches (when performed in correctly).
  • Icing the area gently
  • Panadol/Asprin/N.S.A.I.D’s can help short term.
  • Training/activity evaluation is important
  • No barefoot walking – always use shoes or supportive footwear
  • Shoe evaluation is important
  • Exercises before getting out of bed and arising from rest.
  • Anti-inflammatory gel massage

Products that may assist with Heel Pain.......

  • FS6 Compression foot sock  is a great product designed especially for plantar fasciitis, it helps to reduce the swelling and boosts the venous system to support the achilles and lift the plantar fascia. The FS6 compression sock also helps provides security to the foot allowing the foot muscles to relax aiding in muscle recovery.
  • Orthaheel shoes and sandals are  a great alternative to the traditional thong and sandal. Orthaheel shoes and thongs combine a medical grade off the shelf orthotic with a shoe that you'll actually wear. They can assist with biomechanical correction to those with flat feet and provide relief for those with a normal arch by taking the weight off the heel when walking.  Whilst theres no alternative to a good shoes theses are great around the house or at the beach when sneakers just wont do!
  • Heel Cushions can provide releif to those with heel bruising or bursitis. These are also a great alterative to the heel lift for achilles tendon problems as it is softer than the tradtional heel lift whilst giving you the boost you need.
  • Strappings and tapings are a great way to help relax the foot and leg muscles and get you back on track
  • Orthotics are scientifically proven to help reduce plantar fasciitis and form the basis of most treatment plans.
  • Gel Ice-packs are a great way to ice your injury as they wrap around the heel for maximum effect!
  • Pediroller is great alternative to the ice bottle massage and great for rehabiliation of the plantar fascia. Simply freeze it and roll it over the arch and heel. The other great thing about the pediroller is the included foot exercise and stretching guide is also a great resource in the rehabilitation of heel pain.

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