Heel Injuries: Many Possible Problems
The heels are strong bones. They have to be—they must support your whole body when you stand and absorb shock when you walk. They’re also the anchor point for a number of connective tissues that make it possible for your foot to function. Being under that much pressure means that heel injuries are relatively common.
Many Types of Heel Pain
Any condition that damages the heel can be considered a heel injury. Typically they result from too much pressure on the back of the foot, but sudden impacts, abnormal protrusions, and even wounds can create problems. Here are a few of the common heel injuries:
Fractures – This includes any kind of split in hard bone tissue, from full breaks to stress fractures. Any break in the heel bone itself, or in the ankle bones, can be extremely painful and make it impossible for you to walk normally.
Achilles Tendon Disorders – The Achilles tendon is powerful, but strain can take a toll. Tendonitis and tendonosis can result from inflammation, swelling, thickening, and tissue degeneration. This creates pain, stiffness, and weakness in the heel and ankle.
Achilles Ruptures – Enough damage to the Achilles can tear it altogether. Not only is this painful, it also sharply weakens your foot and makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, for you to push off the ground.
Haglund’s Deformity – This is a hard bump on the back of your heel that develops under heavy pressure and friction, usually from the stiff backs of shoes.
Sever’s Disease – The most common source of heel pain for children, this overuse condition develops in active, growing kids. Eventually it can grow painful enough to make your son or daughter limp.
Tarsal Coalition – Sometimes the tarsal bones will grow abnormal tissue connections between them. This can create a painful, rigid flatfoot problem, particularly in teens.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – This is a pinched nerve within a structure on one side of your ankle called the tarsal tunnel. An injury or irritation in the tunnel compresses the nerve and creates serious pain and sometimes weakness.
Puncture Wounds – Any foreign object that pierces your skin creates a puncture wound. While painful on its own, it can also easily become infected.
Plantar Fasciitis – The most common source of heel pain in adults, this is a problem with inflammation and thickening in the plantar fascia band in the sole of the foot. It does need to be treated early, since it tends to get progressively worse and harder to treat with time.
Plantar Warts – A virus in the skin creates a benign, but uncomfortable and unsightly, bump on the sole of the foot. These tend to develop under areas of heavy pressure, like the heel. Standing on them can be very uncomfortable.
Taking Care of Your Heel Injuries
Most of these problems can be managed conservatively, especially if you address them early on. Dr. Brandon S. Percival, Dr. Julie A. Percival, and Dr. William Harris will examine your feet and ankles carefully. Our staff may use diagnostic images like X-rays or other tests to identify your specific problem. Then we will create a treatment plan for you.
While the specific remedies may vary, some general treatments for heel injuries often apply to more than one condition. Rest is usually one of the most important steps for recovery. You’ll need to give your heels a chance to repair any damage without constantly re-aggravating the tissue. Occasionally, wearing a brace or cast may be necessary to allow your foot to heal. Icing the painful area may help decrease inflammation and swelling. Most likely you’ll need more support for the back of the foot, whether through shoe changes or cushioned orthotics. In some cases, physical therapy can be beneficial as well. In rare cases, surgery may be needed to correct serious or unresponsive problems.
Heel injuries are painful and can destabilize your whole foot. You don’t have to suffer quietly, though, and you shouldn’t. Let Carolina Podiatry Group help restore your feet to full health and strength. Make an appointment with our South Carolina offices before your pain worsens. Use our website or call to reach us: (803) 285-1411 for Lancaster, or (803) 548-FEET for Indian Land.