The most common causes of heel pain are plantar fasciitis, which affects the bottom of the heel, and Achilles tendinitis, which affects the back of the heel.
A sore heel is a common foot and ankle complaint. Rest, orthotics and stretching ease pain over time. If you ignore and don’t treat heel pain, you may develop chronic problems that require a longer recovery. Heel pain rarely needs surgery.
Causes of Heel Pain
Heel pain is a common foot and ankle problem. Pain may occur underneath the heel or behind it. Many conditions can cause pain in the heels, including:
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Achilles or flexor tendonitis/tendonosis.
- Bone spurs.
- Sever’s disease (mostly in children 8-14 years old).
- Stress fractures.
- Inflamed tendons.
It’s important to have a medical evaluation to help you determine the exact cause of your heel pain so that the proper treatment regimen can begin.
Heel pain can make it difficult to walk and participate in daily activities. Most painful heel conditions improve with nonsurgical treatments, but your body needs time to recover.
Types of Heel Pain
One might experience pain, soreness or tenderness anywhere in the heel. You typically feel heel pain:
- Behind the heel.
- Beneath the heel.
- Within the heel bone itself.
Heel pain symptoms vary depending on the cause. In addition to pain, you may experience:
- Bony growth on the heel.
- Discoloration (bruising or redness).
- Pain after standing from a resting/sitting position.
Orthopedic Specialist at Shreya Hospital in Ghaziabad will assess your symptoms and perform a physical exam. You may also get X-rays to check for arthritis, bone fractures, bone alignment and joint damage.
Rarely, you may need an MRI or ultrasound. These can show soft tissue problems which X-rays don’t reveal.
Most problems that cause heel pain get better over time with nonsurgical treatments. Therapies focus on easing pain and inflammation, improving foot flexibility and minimizing stress and strain on the heel. These treatments include:
- Injections: Steroid injections can ease pain and swelling. Steroid injections should rarely, if ever, be given for a tendon problem but may certainly help for plantar fasciitis and bursitis.
- Orthotic devices: Over-the-counter or custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics) can take pressure off the heel. Some people find relief by wearing a splint at night, especially if they get morning pain. A walking boot may be necessary for more severe symptoms. You may also need to switch to more supportive shoes for everyday wear and exercise.
- Pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) combined with ice packs ease pain and swelling.
- Physical therapy: Massage, physical therapy and ultrasound therapy can break up soft tissue adhesions. These treatments may reduce pain and inflammation.
- Stretching exercises: Your healthcare provider can show you how to do heel stretching exercises for tight tendons and muscles.
- Taping: You can use athletic or medical tape to support the foot arch or heel.
It’s rare to need surgery to treat most causes of heel pain.