Heel Pain: The Various Factors Responsible For It & How It Can Be Treated

Heel pain is one of the most common types of foot problems, affecting millions of people all over the world. A patient may experience pain just under the heel or behind it. While the heel pain itself can be quite severe at times and take on seriously debilitating proportions, it hardly poses as a major health threat. In most cases it can go away on its own. However, only in some cases the pain may persist for a long time and become chronic.

Causes of Heel Pain:

Heel pain can be caused by a number of different factors. Some of the conditions that most frequently cause pain in the heel include plantar fasciitis, heel bursitis, heel bumps, tarsal tunnel syndrome, calcaneal apophysitis, stress fracture, chronic inflammation of heel pad and achilles tendonosis or degenerative tendinopathy. It also be caused by certain other conditions as well, such as peripheral neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, osteomyelitis, Morton’s neuroma, gout, bone cyst, Achilles tendon rupture, bone bruise and gait problems. Sometimes more than a single factor may be responsible for the pain.

Symptoms of Heel Pain:

Generally pain develops gradually without any external factors such as injuries. In some cases, wearing flat shoes like flip flops may cause heel pain. Flat footwear tends to stretch plantar fascia to a great extent which in turn cause swelling. The pain is felt mostly under the foot around the front portion of the heel. The symptoms may actually worsen just after a bit of rest.

When to Consult a Foot Doctor?

An individual should consult a Foot doctor in case he or she experiences the following sensations:
  • Severe pain that is followed by swelling near the heel area;
  • Tingling or numbness around the heel along with pain and fever;
  • Inability to bend foot downwards or walk properly;
  • Inability to stand with back of the foot raised;
  • The pain has lasted for more than a week;
  • Heel pain persists even while not walking or standing

Heel Pain Diagnosis:

  A doctor will carry out a thorough medical examination of the affected area and ask the patient questions about his or her lifestyle to find out what might have triggered the pain. The doctor may also recommend imaging tests like X-rays and blood tests.

Heel Pain Treatment:

Once the doctor has evaluated the presence of heel pain and has found out the possible factors that may have led to its development, he or she may recommend oral or topical medications to ease the pain. The NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the most common medications used for treating heel pain. Corticosteroid solutions may be applied in the affected area for reducing pain which may be followed by an electric current for promoting absorption. The doctor may also recommend use of orthotics and night splints to provide support to the affected heel. Other methods used for managing heel pain include shock wave therapy and physiotherapy. If all else fails, the doctor can recommend surgical procedures.