In our Utah podiatry practice, I see a lot of patients who are experiencing heel pain. Heel pain is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, (a condition that’s also referred to as heel spurs.) Plantar fasciitis is caused by painful inflammation in the ligament that runs from your heel to your toes. While plantar fasciitis is usually the cause of pains in your heels, sometimes the true culprit is inflammation in your Achilles tendon. When this is the case, you’ll usually feel pain at the back of your heel.
The pain of plantar fasciitis is usually worst right in the morning. You step out of bed, and feel sharp pain right away. As the day goes on, and you start walking more, the pain starts to subside, only to return later in the day.
This kind of heel pain can begin very intermittently, but, over time, it will become more consistent and more intense. If left untreated, what started as a single foot problem can even spread to your other foot! Because heel pain only gets worse when it’s ignored, it’s important to see your podiatrist and begin treatment the first time you notice a problem.
Will I Need Shots or Surgery to Resolve Heel Pain?
When it comes to heel pain, major interventions are never the first choice at Mountain West. As it turns out, we’ve got science on our side! In a study published in the Washington Post, researchers found that plantar fasciitis patients being treated with non-invasive exercises were 1.6 times more likely to be cured than those patients receiving cortisone injections or more aggressive treatment protocols.
How Will You Treat My Heel Pain?
Now that you can relax a little, let’s explore our initial approach to resolving your heel pain.
One method that works very well for patients is podiatrist-provided stretching exercises.
Here are some simple stretches that can help you manage chronic heel pain:
Stretch your calves
- Stand in front of a wall, about arm’s length away.
- Move your right foot behind your left.
- Moving slowly, gently bend forward your left leg.
- Make sure your right heel stays on the ground and your right knee stays straight.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds, then relax. Repeat the movement three times.
- Switch your legs and repeat steps three through five.
Other treatment options
While there are many more stretches that can provide relief from heel pain, in some cases, stretching will not be a sufficient treatment option.
In some cases, you’ll need to take a break from certain exercises, like running—at least until the inflammation in your plantar fascia calms down. We may suggest takig anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, to help speed up the healing process. In some cases, icing the affected areas may also be a useful tool for cooling down the inflammation.
Outside Support for Heel Pain
Some patients with heel pain also benefit from wearing specially padded heel socks. In some cases, taping or strapping your heels can also help alleviate heel pain. In our practice, we’ve also had lots of success fighting heel pain with custom orthotics. By changing the position of your foot and supporting all the connective bones and muscles, we are often able to eliminate the root cause of your inflammation.
With science on our side and the general well-being of our patients as our top goal, you’ll understand why I always suggest the least invasive treatment possible for my patients—whether it’s for heel pain or other troubling conditions. I will only try more invasive procedures, like injections or surgery, if all other options have proved unhelpful. As a result, only a very small percentage of patients in my practice require surgery to resolve their heel pain.
As with almost every foot condition, early treatment will make a huge difference in the types of therapies that will be effective for your treatment plan. If you are experiencing heel pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Gibson today!