Chronic heel pain is something many people live with or without seeking treatment. However, this painful symptom can hinder patients from being active and living to their fullest potential. This is why doctors encourage people with chronic heel pain to see their podiatrist and seek a solution to their pain. Continue reading to learn more about chronic heel pain and why it is necessary to see a doctor.
Where Does Chronic Heel Pain Occur?
Many patients describe their heel pain as being just behind the heel or under it. This pain typically occurs where the Achilles tendon connects to the heel bone. It is also common for patients to describe their pain as being on the side of the heel.
Typically, chronic heel pain is not caused by an injury. Many times it is caused by overuse due to excessive physical activity or old age. Often, chronic heel pain starts mild, but increase in intensity and severity over time.
Causes of Chronic Heel Pain
The most common cause of chronic heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This condition is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that connects the heel bone to the tip of the foot. This type of heel pain stems from the anatomy of the foot, especially if the arches are too high or too low. When this ligament is stretched too much, the tissue fibers become inflamed, which typically happens where the ligament connects to the heel, causing the pain.
Another cause of chronic heel pain is heel bursitis, which is inflammation that occurs in the bursa, a fibrous sac of fluid, at the back of the heel. Patients with this condition feel the pain at the back of the heel or deep inside of it. Patients may also experience swelling of the Achilles tendon and the pain worsens throughout the day.
Some patients experience heel pain from chronic inflammation of the heel pad. In this case, the heel pad becomes too thin to absorb the impact of the footsteps, causing pain in the heel bone. This can also be caused by a patient taking heavy, forceful footsteps.
Finally, heel pain can be caused by a stress fracture in the metatarsal bones of the foot. This condition is caused by putting repetitive stress on the foot or heel from strenuous activities such as sports, exercise, or manual work.
Treatment of Chronic Heel Pain
Overall, if you have chronic heel pain or think you may have any of the previous listed conditions, it is important to see your doctor or your podiatrist. He or she will be able to find a treatment specialized to your needs.
Most causes of chronic heel pain can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs reduce swelling and pain around the heel and foot area. This is typically the first line of action for chronic heel pain treatment and they must be prescribed by a doctor.
If NDAIDs do not improve the pain, some patients turn to corticosteroid injections. Again, these injections must be prescribed by a doctor, as long term use can have negative effects. Be sure to consult your doctor about the effects before choosing to get the injections.
There are other treatment options which do not involve drugs or injections. Patients often choose to do physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. Others use athletic tape, orthotics, or insoles to support the arch of the foot and correct foot faults.
Finally, in extreme cases of chronic heel pain, some podiatrists recommend surgery for their patients.
Chronic heel pain is common and entirely treatable, however be sure to consult your doctor or podiatrist as he or she can help you make the best treatment decision. Then, you can return to living an active, healthy life!