Causes of Heel Pain and Remedies to Help

Heel pain usually takes time to build up. Most people ignore the discomfort until things get worse and they find it difficult to place weight on the heel. Most people experience pain in one heel only but some people experience it in both heels. The pain is usually very severe as you wake up in the morning and feels a bit better after some time. Still, the discomfort can greatly affect the quality of your life. To find the right treatment, it is important to know about heel pain causes.

Causes of Heel Pain

Heel pain may vary in intensity, as some people can still walk with a painful heel but others may limp and find it difficult to walk. You develop heel pain due to a number of causes. Excessive use of the heel bone is one common factor, but you can develop heel pain when you pound your feet hard on the ground. Obesity is also a risk factor. And of course, some people develop heel pain by wearing ill-fitting shoes. Here are some of the most common heel pain causes:

1. Plantar Fasciitis

The condition usually causes pain on the bottom of your heel. The plantar fascia refers to the band of tissue running down the arch of your foot. It connects your toes with your heel and helps absorb shock. However, repeated stress on the plantar fascia can cause inflammation and lead to plantar fasciitis. The pain is usually worse in the morning.

How to Treat It

OTC anti-inflammatory drugs are your first line of defense. You can take ibuprofen to ease the pain. Icing the area may also help reduce inflammation. It is also important to avoid putting pressure on your foot for some time.

You may also feel better by stretching your feet and calves. You can do it through towel stretch. Here is how to do it:

  • Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you.
  • Take a rolled towel and place it around the ball of your foot.
  • Grab the ends of the towel with each hand and pull your foot toward you. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and then repeat the same with your other side.

2. Fat Pad Atrophy

Statistics show that on average your feet step over 100,000 miles over the course of your lifetime, so it is only natural to have that natural cushioning wear down at some point. Thinner fat pads are likely to put more pressure on your heel, thus leading to heel pain.

How to Treat It

Icing the area is important, and so is rest. You can also take anti-inflammatory medicines to deal with pain. Ensure that you do not wear flats or high heels for some time. It is better to stick to a pair of supportive shoes. It also makes sense to wear a heel lift because these inserts can shift your body weight to the front part of your foot. You should also be very careful when walking – use the right walking style and if possible, walk on a soft surface only.

3. Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in your body. It connects your heel bone and calf together. Any wear and tear on the backside of your heel or calf itself can cause inflammation in this area. This inflammation is one of many heel pain causes.

How to Treat It

You may want to do the towel stretch and try some other exercises to help relieve pressure from the Achilles tendon. These exercises will also strengthen the tendons in this area and prevent heel pain. You may also consider massaging your calf to direct more blood flow to the area, which in turn will promote healing. Wearing a heel lift will also take some pressure off your heel and promote healing.

4. Arthritis

This condition leaves you with inflamed joints and there will be heel pain when it affects your feet. People with flat feet are at a greater risk of developing this problem. There may be some impingement of the joint when you keep your foot rolled in constantly. If you have had an ankle injury in the past, you are at an increased risk of developing post-traumatic arthritis in your heel.

How to Treat It

Take plenty of rest and make use of anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain. You may want to work with a physiotherapist to learn how to strengthen your foot muscles. Stronger muscles provide greater support to your joint and reduce pain as well.

5. Other Causes

  • Heel Spurs: You develop this problem when you overstretch the lining that covers your heel. Athletes are at a greater risk of developing heel spurs, but obese people may also develop it.
  • Excessive Pronation: You develop this condition when you roll your foot inward a little too much than normal, which in turn overstretches the tendons and ligaments at the back of your heel. This can cause severe heel pain.
  • Heel Bursitis: The bursa is a fibrous sac at the back of your heel that can become inflamed due to excessive pressure from footwear and cause severe pain in your heel.
  • Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome: You develop this condition due to the entrapment of a large nerve in the back of your foot. This compression neuropathy can occur in the foot or ankle.

How to Relieve Pain

To reduce pain, you should identify the underlying heel pain causes first. Luckily, the following tips will help ease your discomfort.

  • Be sure to take plenty of rest.
  • Ice the area for at least 15 minutes twice a day.
  • Use OTC medications to relieve pain.
  • Wear a night splint and use heel lifts whenever possible.

You should see your doctor if homecare measures fail to offer any relief. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and even ask for certain tests to make a correct diagnosis. They will be in a better position to suggest a right treatment option once they have identified the real cause of pain. They may ask you to work with a physiotherapist to strengthen the area around your heel or prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to ease your pain. They may also recommend the use of special footwear devices to reduce the discomfort and promote healing.

How Can You Prevent Heel Pain?

It is not easy to deal with heel pain, so it is always better to take precautionary measures and avoid develop heel pain in the first place. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Ensure that you always wear proper shoes that fit you perfectly.
  • Always spend some time stretching your muscles before physical activity.
  • Increase the intensity of your workout gradually.
  • Follow a balanced diet and take plenty of rest.
  • Exercise to keep your weight in check.
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