You step down on your heel, and the pain is so intense that your foot collapses underneath you. Two common causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis and bone spurs, can come on suddenly and keep you from your daily activities. Here is why they are so painful and how they are treated so you can get back on your feet.
A small band of tissue runs along the bottom of your foot between your toes and heel. This is the plantar fascia and is useful for providing stability in your foot and for holding the arch in place. When this tissue is irritated, it becomes painful and inflamed. It can be so painful that you can't put weight on your foot. Some of the reasons for the irritation include:
- over stretching of the tissue during physical activity
- poor warmup before doing exercises
- shoes or socks that rub against the bottom of your foot as you walk
A visit to a podiatrist will determine the cause and level of irritation. Your doctor will then make one or more of the following treatment recommendations:
- custom orthotics, worn in your shoe, to support your foot and take pressure off of the plantar fascia
- physical therapy to stretch out the tense muscles in the bottom of your foot
- anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain and swelling
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend steroid injections to immediately reduce the inflammation. For recurring plantar fasciitis, surgery may be recommended to lengthen the tissue, making it less likely to become inflamed.
Sometimes, small pieces of bone grow out from your heel, especially where tendons attach muscles to the heel bone. These bony fragments normally cause no problem, and the body eventually absorbs them back into itself. Occasionally, a bone spur will become rough and jagged and irritate nearby muscles and nerves. The result is intense pain when you step down on that placed on your heel.
Your body will still absorb the bone spur. In the meantime, your foot doctor will help reduce the pain by recommending:
- custom orthotics to wear in your shoe that cushion your heel and take pressure from the area with the bone spur
- anti-inflammatory medications to prevent the tissues irritated by the bone spur from becoming inflamed
In some cases, the bone spur is large enough that your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the bony growth before it damage muscles and other soft tissues in your foot.
For more information, contact Richard A Steinmetz DPM or a similar medical professional.