Heel Pain Questions and Answers

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Your heels must support your entire body weight whenever you stand upright, walk, or run. Severe heel pain can therefore limit your ability to play sports, do your daily chores, or perform essential job tasks. If you suffer from heel pain, the following questions and answers may help steer you toward the right treatments and lifestyle changes.

What Acute Injuries Can Cause Heel Pain?

One of the most debilitating of all heel injuries involves a fracture of the calcaneus, the knobby bone that defines the back of the foot. A high-impact accident such as a car crash or fall from a ladder can fracture this bone. If parts of the bone become displaced, the healing process may lead to deformity and long-term pain.

The Achilles tendon that attaches to the back of the heel can also suffer an acute injury such as a tear. A torn Achilles tendon can cause severe pain and stiffness both in the calf and at the point where it attaches to the heel. Bones spurs may form at the injury site, making your pain even worse.

Why Might You Experience Chronic Heel Pain?

Some cases of chronic heel pain can stem from an old acute injury, as noted above. However, many people experience chronic heel pain and foot pain due to low-grade injury syndromes such as Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. In both examples, repetitive stress on the connective tissues leads to heel pain and inflammation.

You might struggle with chronic heel pain if you have unusually high or low arches in your feet. Other contributing factors may include obesity, overuse of the feet through long hours of standing, intense athletic activity, or footwear that doesn't offer proper arch support.

How Can a Heel Pain Doctor Treat Your Pain?

A heel pain doctor can take X-rays of your troublesome heel to look for signs of tendon damage, swelling, or fractures. Soft tissue strains or inflammation often respond to a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, followed by gentle physical therapy techniques to nurse the tissues back to health.

A fractured heel bone may require surgical repair, especially if the bone fragments have shifted out of position. Your surgeon will move the fragments back into place and stabilize them with metal plates and screws. Cracks or lesser fractures may heal without surgery, but you'll have to use crutches and wear a cast for several weeks.

Your foot doctor may recommend preventative measures to help you avoid future heel pain. For instance, you might need to lose weight, change your work routine to give your feet a rest, wear orthotic insoles, and avoid footwear that throws your weight distribution off balance. Contact a local foot pain doctor to learn more.