The heel is naturally designed to absorb a lot of impact. In fact, it’s the first part of our bodies that touches the ground on every step. It helps us balance, supports our skeletons and literally carries us through our lives from our first step to last breath. As a result of all this heel-to-ground activity over the course of an average lifespan, the heel becomes a pretty common source of pain and injury for people.
The largest bone in the foot, the heel, or calcaneous, is perhaps the most common culprit for foot pain in adults. The reasons for pain and discomfort can be wide ranging and chronic but we have a number of outstanding methods by which to treat and eliminate heel pain.
Providing support for the arch and the source of our ability to flex our minor toes is the flexor digitorum brevis muscle. It, along with a fibrous strap of connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which makes up the arch of the foot, is our first concern when diagnosing heel pain. Both the plantar fascia and digitorum brevis are located along the sole of the foot.
You have probably heard of plantar fasciitis; it’s quite common and painful. Plantar fasciitis can be traced to atypical walking habits or prolonged periods of abnormalities in one’s stride or gait. Ultimately, it’s not necessarily the heel itself that is being damaged, but the structures attached to it.
People often complain of increased pain after resting for a while. That is what makes this such a nagging and long-standing source of pain. The condition is called post-static dyskinesia, meaning “pain after rest.” It tends to occur in the morning, after a sufferer has been sleeping, and can increase when walking upstairs or even when barefoot.
You may notice some swelling, redness and even warmness of the skin when plantar fasciitis is present. Surgery is rare but a cast or boot is often needed to treat more serious cases. Usually, consistent foot stretching and comfortable in-soles can help as well.
Heel spurs are also a fairly common form of heel pain. The spurs are small growths of new bone on your heel as a result of your body’s response to strains and pulls on the bottom of the heel. The bone growth is not really a sharp “spur” but a smooth protrusion of bone that can apply pressure to other bones, nerves and tissue.
The middle-aged and elderly are more apt to experience heel pain as fitness levels decline and the added years of strain on the foot accumulate. Although, young children and pre-teens experience heel pain as well.
Rest assured that whatever the source of your heel pain, we can provide a diagnosis and get you back on your feet, or heels, in no time.