What Causes Persistent Heel Pain? | Upwell Health
Have a hard time walking? Does your heel hurt for no obvious reason? Heel pain is one of the most common podiatry problems. It can have a variety of causes, from plantar fasciitis and bursitis to rheumatoid arthritis. Another possible cause is Achilles tendinitis, which affects the back of your heel.
A qualified podiatrist can identify the root cause of heel pain and develop a treatment plan. They will also recommend exercises that help ease pain and make daily activities easier. First, let’s see what causes heel pain:
Heel Pain at a Glance
About half of Australians wake up with foot or heel pain at least once a week. Over six percent experience this problem on a daily basis. Middle aged men and women as well as overweight and obese individuals have the greatest risk. The extra weight put stress on their feet, causing pain.
Children can experience persistent heel pain too, especially when starting an exercise program. High-impact activities, such as basketball and running, are often the culprit behind heel pain. If you’re sitting or standing for long hours, you may develop foot problems later in life.
Even though most foot conditions can be prevented, they are often being ignored. This may lead to complications and make the pain worse.
Common Causes of Persistent Heel Pain
Excess weight, high-impact exercise, and prolonged standing can place too much stress on the heel bone and the surrounding tissues. Bruises and injuries may affect the foot structure, causing pain the heel. This condition can have different causes, such as:
- Heel spurs
- Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures to the heel bone
- Bone enlargement in the heel area
- Soft tissue growths
- Nerve growths
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Bone tumors
- Achilles tendon rupture
- Achilles tendinitis
Most times, the pain affects the back or underside of your heel. You might have a hard time playing sports, exercising, and walking around. Even though this problem is rarely a health threat, it can be disabling. If left untreated, it may become chronic.
Persistent heel pain can indicate an underlying condition, such as arthritis, neurological problems, or foot infections. For this reason, it’s recommended to see a podiatrist if your symptoms don’t go away within days or weeks. They can help identify the cause of pain and restore your mobility.
Plantar fasciitis, for instance, is the primary cause of heel pain. It usually occurs in those who are obese or gain weight suddenly. It can also result from prolonged standing, wearing inappropriate footwear, or diabetes.
This condition affects middle aged people, athletes, and people who stand for long hours. It causes tiny tears in the ligament, leading to pain and inflammation. Simple lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and wearing better-fitting shoes can help relieve its symptoms. Ice therapy, massage, and stretching exercises are beneficial in most cases.
Heel pain can be also caused by heel spurs. This disorder causes the formation of bone fragments on the heel bone. The pain occurs in the morning or when walking after periods of rest. The best way to prevent it is to wear appropriate footwear. If you already have heel spurs, consider using shoe inserts. A podia can determine what treatment method will work best for you.
Young people and athletes may experience heel pain due to Sever’s disease. When you’re suffering from this condition, your calf bones grow faster than the surrounding tissues, causing tightness in the Achilles tendon. Beside heel pain, you may notice swelling, tenderness, limping, and stiffness at the heel. The pain gets worse during exercise and high-impact activities.
This disorder can be treated with calf massage, ice packs, pain relievers, and therapeutic exercises. Wearing a heel raises can help too. Also, it’s important to avoid jumping, eccentric exercises, and stretching until the pain goes away.
Other possible causes of heel pain include gout, fibromyalgia, Reiter’s syndrome, radicular pain, low back sciatica, and plantar fibroma. Chronic pain syndrome may cause discomfort too.
Unless you have an underlying condition, the pain should go away within days. To speed up healing, apply ice under the heel, stretch your feet gently, and stop exercising. Wear shoes with good insoles and medium heels to relieve discomfort. If you exercise regularly, warm up properly and avoid high-impact activities, such as jumping.
When to See a Podiatrist
As you see, persistent heel pain may be caused by underlying disorders that require immediate treatment. See a podiatrist immediately if the pain is severe and accompanied by swelling, fever, tingling, or numbness in the heel. These problems are considered medical emergencies.
If the heel pain persists when you’re not standing or walking, or lasts more than a few weeks, make an appointment with your GP. A podiatrist or a physiotherapist will check your feet to determine what causes heel pain. They will also ask about the type of exercise you do, what kind of shoes you wear, and how much time you spend standing in the workplace.
Treatment depends on the cause of pain. If you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, physiotherapy can help. Most likely, you will be prescribed athletic taping and exercises that strengthen the lower leg muscles.
The therapist may recommend an exercise program to help stretch tight calf muscles and relieve pain. They might also use pain and pressure relief techniques, foam rolling, and manual therapy to alleviate your symptoms.
With early treatment, you’ll be able to recover quickly and resume your daily activities. Most heel injuries respond well to physical therapy. It usually takes six to eight weeks to fully recover. Ask your therapist how to prevent heel pain in the future. They will recommend you the most appropriate footwear and suggest lifestyle changes.
A good therapist can also teach you balance and foam rolling exercises that lower injury risk and improve mobility. If you’re overweight, they can help you lose those extra kilos to take the pressure off your feet.