Recurring Heel Pain- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Recurring Heel Pain

Heel pain is a very common issue faced by almost 2 million Americans on a yearly basis. Because of this, it becomes really difficult for them to walk and conduct daily activities.

The heel, located towards the back of the foot, is shaped like a padded cushion and is made up of fatty tissue. Despite weight gain or different movements, the heel holds its form and doesn’t change.

However, due to various reasons, people may feel pain in the heels, either in the bone, behind the heel, or beneath the heel.

Common Causes of Heel Pain

  • Obesity
  • Improper style of walking such as rolling feet inward while walking
  • Wearing uncomfortable or wrong-sized shoes without cushion or arch support
  • Injury or fractures
  • Nerve enlargement also called Neuroma
  • Diseases such as Diabetes and Arthritis
  • Running and jumping on hard surfaces for sports/ exercise

Conditions Associated with Heel Pain

Conditions Associated with Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis

This is the most frequent cause of heel pain. In plantar fasciitis, the fascia (a connective tissue located along the bottom of the foot), gets overstretched or torn. This happens due to excessive running and jumping on hard surfaces such as running on a treadmill.

Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon, a fibrous cord, is the strongest tendon in the body that links the calf muscle to the heel. Sometimes, this tendon can get swollen or stiff due to overrunning or overexertion. It commonly happens in athletes and sportspersons. In Achilles tendinitis, there is tenderness in the back of the heel and may cause problems in walking.

Bursitis

Bursitis can happen if a person stands for too long on hard surfaces. It happens when the bursa, the fluid-filled sacs, that cushion the joints, swell. These sacs are there to ensure smooth fluid movement and when they swell, the movement is restricted, and hence, you feel a bruise developing in the heel.

Contusion

When walking, one may step on something sharp or pointy. This can bruise the fatty tissues cushioning the heel. It can hurt to walk for a while.

Haglund’s Deformity

Sometimes a bony bump can form on the back of the heel due to chronic inflammation. Wearing uncomfortable heels can worsen the pain.

Sever’s Disease

Sever’s Disease

Common among children aged 8 to 14, Sever’s disease happens when the growth plate located at the back of the heel is distressed. It happens usually due to increased athletic activity, especially jumping and running.

 

Symptoms

Apart from the obvious symptom that is pain, one or more of these problems can also be a sign that you should get your heel checked.

  • Stiffness of joints or difficulty in standing from a resting position
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Unusual bony growth on the heel
  • Bruising
  • Discoloration

Diagnosis

Recurring Heel Pain

To diagnose the underlying issue, the doctor may order an x-ray to check for bone fracture or alignment issues, arthritis, or bone damage. In a few cases, the doctor may also ask for an MRI scan or ultrasound to check the condition of tissues.

Possible Treatments

Once the reason for heel pain is diagnosed, it is possible to treat it usually without any surgical treatments. A few effective ways to deal with heel pain are as follows:

Injections

Your healthcare provider may prescribe steroid injections to ease the pain. The injections are given mainly for bursitis and plantar fasciitis.

Pain Reliever

NSAIDs may be prescribed to help with the pain. Ice packs can also help with swelling.

Orthotic Devices

Orthotic Devices

Custom-made shoe inserts, called, orthotics, are sometimes given to patients to help ease the pain and walk more comfortably. A walking boot is also an option for more serious pain. Other than that, the doctor may advise wearing shoes with arch support to reduce the pain.

Stretching Exercises

The doctor can tell different stretching moves to ease heel pain by reducing tension in the muscles and tendons.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy such as massage or ultrasound therapy can also help treat heel pain.

Taping

Athletic or medical tape can be used to support the heel and foot arch.

Usually, heel pain goes away with these treatments, but it requires time and patience. The healing is a slow process. If you revert to heavy sports or workouts too soon, the pain will not go away.

In rare cases, you may need surgical treatment if the pain doesn’t settle even after many medicines and therapy. In such cases, consulting a doctor is necessary to decide what course of action to take.