Dr. Tepper treats a wide range of foot and ankle conditions here at our Upland, CA office, but heel pain treatment tends to be an especially common one he provides for our patients. A big reason for this is the fact that patients of all ages, lifestyles, and activity levels can be afflicted with pain and discomfort in the back of their feet.
In spite of its commonality, there is some good news when it comes to heel pain – Dr. Tepper has techniques that are proven to resolve the problem. Even better, a vast majority of cases are effectively treated without needing surgical intervention.
Common Sources of Heel Pain
When everything performs as intended, it is really easy to take our feet for granted and not think about all they do for us. Feet and ankles not only enable movement, but they also have to support the entire body when we stand. Whereas this typically goes unnoticed (unless a problem develops), the lower limbs endure tremendous amounts of physical force. Even just walking at a normal pace places up to two times your bodyweight on a foot as it lands while taking a step!
In addition to the amount of physical forces we place on our feet every day, another reason heel pain is so prevalent is the fact there several conditions can cause this problem. Some of the more common ones include:
- Plantar fasciitis. The most common source of heel pain for adults, this condition is caused by an inflamed tissue (plantar fascia) running along the underside of your foot. When subjected to excessive stress, the fascia sustains tiny rips and becomes inflamed as a result. Your body then works to repair the fascia during periods of rest, but the tears can reopen with the first steps afterwards. For this reason, a primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is sharp heel pain in the morning.
- Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon is the body’s strongest tendon, and is quite durable, but it’s not infallible. When overworked, the Achilles becomes inflamed. Pain in the back of the heel is typically strongest during, or immediately following, physical activity and will become stronger over time. This injury often happens to long-distance runners and “weekend warriors” (who sporadically engage in intense physical activity).
- Sever’s disease. Plantar fasciitis is the leading cause of heel pain for adults, but Sever’s is the most common source for kids (especially adolescents). Sever’s isn’t actually a disease, though. Instead, it is a condition that occurs when the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon. This leads to tightness and pulling in the back of the heel. The pain is often worse with physical activity and treatment is centered on relieving it (since the condition will resolve itself over time, without any long-term issues).
Heel Pain Treatment and Prevention
As we noted earlier, the good news when it comes to these various conditions is that they are often successfully resolved with the use of conservative (nonsurgical) treatment. There are many different options and methods we may use when creating our unique treatment plan specifically for you. Some of the components include rest, ice, medication, stretches, physical therapy, footwear changes, orthotic devices, and corticosteroid injections.
We are also proud to offer advanced shockwave therapy as a treatment option for heel pain caused by soft tissue injury.
(Don’t worry, the “shock” in “shockwave” is not electrical!)
In shockwave therapy, a small machine in our office generates ballistic soundwaves that are able to penetrate deep into tissues and accelerate a natural, powerful healing response by your body. When the waves reach the cells at the site of injury, it causes the cells to release biochemicals to build new blood vessels that flood the area with nutrients and oxygen so the damaged tissues can be regenerated.
Naturally, the best form of treatment is to prevent a condition from developing in the first place. The good news is that most of the common causes of heel pain are fairly preventable. Measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing heel pain include:
- Wearing proper footwear. Make sure you have the right shoes for the sports and exercises you do. More than simply “wearing running shoes if you run often,” always pick footwear that fits correctly, has a solid construction, and provides ample cushioning and arch support. Beyond footwear for physical activities, limit the amount of time you spend wearing high-heeled shoes. Pumps and stilettos may look cute, but they cause excessive strain on the connective tissues in your feet and lower legs. If you wear these kinds of shoes for work, consider wearing more-sensible models on your commute to and from the office.
- Easing into physical activity. When starting a new running or exercise program, give your body time to adjust to the increased forces you’re placing on it. To keep your feet and ankles safe, start any new workout program at an easy level and then slowly ramp up your intensity and duration over time. A good target is a roughly 10% increase per week. Doing more will increase your injury risk.
- Stretching. Before any individual workout session or athletic activity, take about 5-10 minutes for a proper warmup, followed by some dynamic stretches targeting the muscles you are going to use. This is a smart approach to prepare your body for the activity you are about to perform. There are many injuries that could be prevented by warming up and stretching first.
- Cross-training. Instead of running six days a week or only relying on high-impact sports like basketball or tennis for fitness, mix in a couple of sessions of yoga, cycling, swimming, or walking to reduce the total amount of physical stress on your feet and heels.
Find the Relief You Need from an Expert Podiatrist!
Heel pain is a persistent problem that can take away your options and keep you from enjoying your favorite activities – but it’s one that you can do something about!
If you want to put the pain behind you, give Dr. Jan David Tepper the opportunity to help you find relief from plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, or any other source of heel pain. Dr. Tepper will evaluate your condition, provide a professional diagnosis, and then create a customized treatment plan to resolve the problem for you.