Answering the Question: Why Do My Heels Hurt?
If heel pain is an unwelcome guest in your daily life, you are far from alone. Millions of people experience heel pain, and we certainly wish more people would come see us to find the relief they deserve!
The first step toward treating heel pain of any sort is figuring out why that discomfort is happening in the first place. There is unfortunately no one treatment that will eliminate every case of heel pain out there. Many different conditions can lead to heel pain, and those conditions can have different contributing factors as well.
So when you ask, “Why do my heels hurt?”, there might be more potential answers than you expect. But finding that answer and using it to provide you a treatment plan that best suits your needs is what we do.
What Causes Heel Pain?
When many people mention “heel pain,” it can refer to discomfort anywhere within the heel area. There are many soft tissues and bones that could potentially be involved, ranging from the Achilles tendon to the plantar fascia and even the heel bone (calcaneus) itself.
In many cases, something has become injured or strained. While this may potentially happen from sudden trauma, more cases of persistent heel pain tend to arise from overuse or a history of repetitive impacts against the area. In other words, something is being forced to endure more force than it can handle over time, and without enough opportunity to rest and recover.
A few of the more common heel pain conditions we see include:
- Plantar fasciitis. This is a strain of the plantar fascia, a thick tissue that runs along the underside of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. When it becomes overstressed, microtears can develop in the band, often leading to pain in the bottom of the heel as soon as someone gets out of bed or starts moving again after a long period of inactivity.
- Achilles tendinitis. This is strain and irritation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Pain from this condition tends to be felt in the back of the heel, or just above it.
- Stress fractures. These are hairline cracks that can occur along the surface of a bone because of too much repetitive stress and too little rest. Distance runners tend to be at a higher risk of this condition.
There are many poor potential conditions that can be responsible for heel pain, from bursitis to peripheral neuropathy.
Even when we can properly diagnose the condition, however, it does not always provide us the entire story. We also need to know the underlying causes of the condition to best address your heel pain as a whole.
Finding the Sources of Heel Pain
Even when two people have been diagnosed with the same heel pain-causing condition, the reasons why that condition is prevalent may differ between them.
If you provide the same exact type of treatment for these two patients, it could effectively address the underlying cause of one but not the other. One finds relief; the other does not!
That’s why we need to understand the full picture when it comes to every case of heel pain. If we address only the symptoms but not the factors contributing to them, recovery either does not happen or is only temporary. The same problems that caused heel pain in the first place will pull off a repeat performance.
What types of factors may we be looking for? Some of them include:
- Abnormalities in foot structure. Flat feet, high arches, and other abnormalities can cause excess weight and pressure to be shifted to certain areas of the foot, increasing strain and leading to pain.
- Overuse. You may be exerting too much pressure on your feet through different activities, or constantly putting them through their paces without providing enough time and opportunity for recovery.
- Environment. Jobs or lifestyles that involve spending a great deal of time on hard surfaces can contribute to chronic discomfort.
- Improper footwear. A bit like environment, shoes that do not fit properly or do not provide the right types of support can cause problems.
- Excess weight. Being overweight places more overall pressure on the feet, which can influence heel pain.
More than one factor may be involved, and it’s important that we address all of them in our overall treatment plan.
While some recommended courses of treatment, such as laser therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, are designed to aid directly in recovery and relief of symptoms, other forms of treatment have the additional goal of addressing underlying causes and preventing them from causing further trouble in the future. These may include:
- Custom orthotics, to help properly redistribute weight across the feet.
- Changes to more accommodating and supportive footwear.
- A stretching or exercise regimen that will help condition vulnerable areas and everything connected to them. (For example, stretches for the calves may be recommended to help them present less stress on the Achilles tendon and heel bone.)
- Changes to your environment, such as anti-fatigue mats at work or more opportunities to get off your feet, if possible.
- Changes to workout and activity routines that will keep you moving while placing less substantial stress on your feet.
A Comprehensive Plan for Heel Pain Relief
Heel pain is very rarely a problem that can’t be handled. Most cases can be resolved within a few months with the right conservative approach. Surgery is almost never necessary.
But you can’t take the first steps toward relief until you know what’s behind the problem. That’s where we come in.
Schedule an appointment at Michigan Foot & Ankle Specialists by calling (313) 582-6222 or by filling out our online contact form.
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7243 Chase Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48126
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