Heel pain can be a crippling condition. Anyone who has felt that sharp, stabbing sensation in the heel bone knows how difficult it can be to enjoy activities or even to walk when your feet are uncomfortable. There are many different problems that can create this potentially chronic condition. The most common, however, is plantar fasciitis.
The Trouble with Tightness
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that causes sharp pain underneath your heel. The pain is the result of inflammation and swelling in the plantar fascia. This is a band of connective tissue that stretches from toes to your heel, where it attaches to the bone. It helps support your arch and stretches a very limited amount to help your feet absorb shock. Stress and overuse aggravate the tissue, though, causing it to swell and tighten. The tighter the band becomes, the more it pulls on your heel bone, or calcaneus, causing the sharp discomfort that you feel.
You end up with a gradually increasing pain in your sole under your heel bone. The discomfort worsens when you put pressure on your calcaneus and reduces when you rest. Resting for an extended period of time allows the tissue to swell more, which makes it particularly painful to stand up again. This means the issue is usually sharpest when you take your first steps in the morning or after sitting for too long.
Plantar fasciitis does not improve on its own. It does, however, get worse, making it harder and harder for you to participate in your favorite activities—or any activity at all. The repeated swelling and sudden stretching-out of the plantar fascia when you go from resting to standing or walking can create micro-tears in the tissue. This compounds the swelling and thickening. After a little while, the condition becomes chronic and extremely difficult to treat. You may develop small heel spurs. The pain can contribute to other biomechanical issues as you attempt to accommodate your discomfort, too. This may create problems elsewhere, including your knees, hips, and back. Eventually the strain on the band can be enough to actually rupture the tissue.
Reduce the Pressure, Alleviate Pain
You need active, conservative treatment to reduce the irritation and alleviate the uncomfortable swelling in the heels. The sooner you take care of the problem, too, the easier it will be to manage. Dr. Brandon S. Percival, Dr. Julie A. Percival, and Dr. William Harris will carefully examine your lower limbs to diagnose your plantar fasciitis. Our staff may use diagnostic images to rule out other possible conditions. Then we can help you eliminate your heel pain.
The most important and effective therapy is reducing the pressure on the affected heel. This may mean cutting back on your hard-impact activities and limiting the time you spend standing or walking without breaks. Changing your shoes or adding orthotics can also help. Supportive, cushioned footwear can alleviate some of the pressure on the heel bone and protect your feet from shock. Orthotics correct biomechanical issues that may be contributing to the problem as well as offer an extra layer of protection.
Some basic therapies may help as well. Ice your heel when it hurts to discourage inflammation and painful swelling. Stretch your soles and calves regularly, especially first thing in the morning and before you go to bed. This helps loosen the tightened tissues so they don’t pull so sharply on your heel bones. Stretching may relieve some pain when you’re active, too. In some cases we may recommend anti-inflammatory medications as well. Only on occasion does a chronic case not respond to treatment. If that happens, you may need surgery to release the tight plantar fascia.
Heel pain from plantar fasciitis can ruin your activities and make normal actions like walking unpleasant. You don’t have to simply learn to live with the pain. In fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, contact Carolina Podiatry Group in Lancaster, Indian Land, and Indian Land, South Carolina to take care of the pain before it becomes chronic. Call us to make an appointment today: (803) 285-1411 for Lancaster, or (803) 548-FEET for Indian Land.