The most common cause of pain in the heel area of the foot is called plantar fasciitis. It affects an area called the plantar fascia which is a ligament that connects your heel bone to the toes. This area can become weakened when it is damaged and can mean you feel a good deal of pain when you try to walk.
While it is most often found in middle-aged and older people, anyone can get plantar fasciitis, especially if you put a lot of strain on your feet. It’s a quite common injury, for instance, for professional athletes as well as soldiers who often cover great distances in heavy boots.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
It is caused by straining the ligament that supports the arch of your foot. If this area is subjected to repeated strains and stresses, it can cause small tears in the ligament making the area become painful and swollen. Gait problems such as excessive pronation where your feet roll in as you walk can cause this sort of problem as can the shape of the arch of your foot. If you are standing or walking for long periods it can put strain on the ligament and this can also be compounded if you are overweight. Other issues that cause plantar fasciitis are badly fitting, high heel shoes and tightness around the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
You’ll probably notice you have a problem when you first get out of bed or have been sitting for a long time and feel a pain in your foot. This may disappear after you have walked for a bit but will return later if you have been on your feet for a lot of the day.
What to Do About Plantar Fasciitis
If you initially get pain in this area, then the first thing you need to do is make sure you rest your foot as much as possible. Taking a pain killer like ibuprofen can help ease the pain but can also mask it so that you continue to put stress on the foot area and cause more damage. Doing toe and calf stretches when you get up in the morning can also help to relieve the symptoms. You might also like to review your footwear and whether this is causing you problems.
If the pain persists then you should visit your doctors. You can get splints which you can wear at night and your physician might advise a medical intervention such as steroid shot in the heel. Most of the time, however, it’s a case of resting the damaged area and giving it time to heal properly. The vast majority of plantar fasciitis problems can be treated with exercise, rest and pain killing medication but may take some months to get over fully. If you have some problems such as a tight Achilles heel or calf muscle, then you may be recommended to use a physiotherapist to improve these areas through manipulation.
Only in very exceptional circumstances when nothing seems to be working will surgical intervention be used. This can involve cutting part of the ligament to reduce the tension and, in extreme cases, removing the heel spur. Most physicians will give you at least 6 months using non-invasive methods before they recommend going under the knife.
Plantar fasciitis is not a life threatening injury but it can be quite painful and long lasting. If you find yourself suffering from this condition, then the best solution is to rest it as much as possible. When your job involves standing for long periods or lots of walking, reviewing your footwear and introducing changes like supportive insoles can make a difference. Most people find that with sufficient rest the condition begins to improve and it’s only when the problem persists that medical attention is then sought.