Do you ever feel sharp pain in heel while walking? It is a common condition. There are different causes that can result in this condition. Most common cause of this is plantar fasciitis.
It is the inflammation of the big ligament that sits in your foot. Read further to know more about this and other causes of this sharp pain and know how to prevent them.
Heel pain can be usually felt as a stabbing pain usually experienced under the heel or behind it.
It is a common condition. It may be felt as a sharp pain, soreness or tenderness. Foot is actually one of the most commonly used parts of the body and It bears the weight of the whole body. It allows the movement and makes it possible for a person to stand, walk and run. Sore and painful heel seems to be one of the most common complaints. It is important to have a proper checkup and determine the real cause behind your heel pain. Then only can it be evaluated and treated well.
What are the main causes?
Plantar fasciitis and Achilles’ tendinitis are the most common causes of this condition.
Below are the explanations of these two and other causes of your heel pain.
- Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the thick band of tissues that runs from your heel to your toe. It acts a shock absorber. The inflammation and tearing results in the severe pain in the heel of the foot. It mostly starts in the morning when the person wakes up. The pain may exacerbate after long periods of walking or getting up suddenly after a long period of sitting down.
This condition is often referred to as heel pain spur syndrome. It often results in the pain that is felt under the foot. People who run or jog a lot are more likely to develop this condition. Repetitive movements from running can add pressure and tear the plantar fascia. Weight gain may also contribute to this condition. This can lead to inflammation and pain.
- Heel spur
Continuous presence of plantar fasciitis can result in heel spur. It is actually a bony outgrowth which comprises of calcium and it usually deposits below the heel bone. It develops over a period of several months. The main cause of it being is the continuous stress on the tissue and tearing of it. It does not usually result in pai and it is a chronic condition, but some people develop it and feel the pain underneath the foot.
- Achilles’ tendinopathy
Achilles’ tendon is a band of tissues that runs from the calf muscles to your heel bone. It is actually the body’s strongest and longest tendon. The two terms tendinitis and tendinopathy are sometimes used interchangeably. These seem to give the same symptoms, but they are actually different conditions. Tendinopathy is the abnormal degeneration in the collagen of the tendon while as tendonitis is simply the inflammation of the tendon.
Both of these conditions give rise to sharp pain in the heel. The pain can sometimes refer to the back of the leg. There might be mild stiffness and tenderness in the foot too. Intense physical activity can cause this condition. Harsh exercises without proper warmup may also contribute to this condition.
Arthritis of ankle heel and toe can affect the foot. One type of arthritis called osteoarthritis can result in the degenerative changes in the cartilage of the bone. This in turn degenerates the protective cushion like between the bones. This can result in the stiffness of the bone and in the long run it can cause pain the heel.
Another type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. It is an autoimmune condition. This disorder can result in the destruction of the ligaments, cartilage, tendons in different parts of the bones of the feet. The pain caused by RA is typically dull. Joint swelling, warmth and stiffness can be the associating symptoms. This condition is also linked to tendonitis.
It is the inflammation of the bursa sac. These sacs are present all over your body between different bones. These are present to protect your bones. They ease the rubbing and smoothens the friction. Continuous motion of the bones can result in the inflammation the bursa sac. This can be due to the added pressure on the sac.
It can cause the pain in the heel. The heel might be tender and feel like a bruise.
- Heel pad syndrome
This condition often results in the pain in the center of your heel. It is due to the atrophy of the pad of the heel which make up the heel.
It is actually due to the wear and tear of the heel fatty tissue and the fibers that make up the pad. Old age and obesity are considered as the two main causes of the heel pad syndrome.
Any breakage in the bones can results in severe pain. This is an emergency, and it always needs a medical care.
How can you prevent this condition?
Some of the above-mentioned causes of the heel pain may not be possible to prevent but it is always possible to take care of yourself and take several steps to maintain a good physical health.
Certain steps that you can take to prevent the pain are as follows
Always choose the footwears that are your perfect size and are fit. They should always arch with your foot and support it while walking.
When you go for any workout or exercise choose the right shoes for it.
Stretching for 15 min prior to your workout always works wonders.
If you go out never and have to walk on the hard surface, always wear your shoes.
If you’ve had heel pain, try to rest regularly. Avoid standing when you are out for a long time.
As we know obesity might play a role in the cause of the heel pain. Maintaining a healthy body weight is very important.
Always watch what you are eating and try to have a balanced diet.
What are the treatment options for heel pain?
Fortunately, all the causes of the heel pain can be treated with simple non-surgical procedures. The treatment mainly focuses on the easing of pain and decreasing the inflammation.
Increasing the flexibility of the foot is also one of the main steps taken.
Steroid injections are usually given for plantar fasciitis and bursitis. It can help ease the pain and swelling. But steroid injections should be used rarely. They are only recommended when the severity of the pain is a lot. Sometimes the doctor might use an ultrasound device to properly locate the exact place to inject the steroid.
- Pain relievers
Over the counter medications such as NSAIDS can be used to treat the inflammation and the pain. They can be taken anytime you feel the pain is out of tolerance.
- Physical therapy
Exercises that can mainly ease and relax the calf muscles can help in easing the pain. It can help in fast recovery.
- Ice therapy
Wrap some ice cubes in a small towel and apply it to the affected area. Do this for around 20 minutes at least twice a day. Don’t apply the ice directly to your skin as this can result in burns.
These are the assistive devices that are recommended by the doctor. It can cushion the foot while walking and can help in easy walking. It is mainly an insole that goes into your shoes to correct your foot faults and support the arch. You can also use a heel pad.
- Use a night splint
You can use this at night. It helps relax the muscles around your heels and eases the pain. It basically helps stretching the foot while you are asleep.
- Try some foot massages
Massage your foot regularly specially the arch area.
- Watch how you walk
Proper walking style is necessary. Check your posture and the way you walk. Correct any abnormal postures and imbalances. This might be contributing to the pain.
Are there any complications?
Heel pain may be disturbing in its own way. It can somehow be disabling and also affect your walking style.
It can have an effect on how you walk. If there is change in your walking it may result in loosing of balance and make you more prior to falling. It can therefore result in injuries.
chronic heel pain can result in scar tissue. It may also induce complications in other parts of your body like the ankles and knees.
When should you see a doctor?
- You should visit a doctor if you experience the following:
- Severe pain within the heel that can’t be controlled with medications at home
- Pain and sensation of numbness within the heel additionally to fever.
- Heel pain with fever
- If you are unable to walk properly
- If you are unable to maneuver and bend your foot downward.
- Arrange a visit with the doctor if the heel pain continues for over a week.
- You have pain while you’re not even standing or doing any physical activity.
How is heel pain diagnosed?
To arrive at the correct diagnosis, your doctor will first of all ask for a complete history like what are the characteristics of the pain and how long has it been since it has started.
Physical exam will also be done correctly, and any abnormalities will be noted. As the most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis the doctor will approach you by ruling out the other possible causes of the heel pain.
Sometimes the imaging techniques like X ray and other models are used.
Heel pain is actually a non-complicated condition that can be treated at home without any surgical interventions. The diagnosis is very easy. Your doctor can easily determine what is causing your pain.
Simple exercises and stretching techniques can be followed to ease the pain.
Orthotics and other devices are also available easily.
Do not take any pain for granted and ignore it. Always try to give yourself enough time to heal and recover fully. This is very important as it can prevent you from developing chronic heel pain which is not only frustrating but is also difficult to treat.