Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)

What is heel pain?

Heel pain is the most common foot condition among Americans, affecting 16 percent of the population. While it is a common misconception that most heel pain is attributed to heel spurs, the most frequent cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis.  In this condition, a minor injury occurs to the attachment of the thick fibrous band of tissue (fascia) that connects the heel bone to the ball of the foot.  The pain is generally located under the heel and towards the medial side of the foot.  Pain generally begins as mild discomfort and can progress to flare ups with intense pain classically with the first steps in the morning, or after resting for a period of time.  

What causes heel pain?

Heel pain is generally the result of faulty foot biomechanics that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. To avoid heel pain, always wear shoes that fit well and wear the proper shoes for each activity.  Do not wear shoes with excessive or unevenly worn heels or soles, and remember to perform stretching exercises well before activity. 

How is heel pain treated?

Fortunately, if detected early, heel pain can be successfully treated with several noninvasive treatment options.  The most common first treatment for plantar fasciitis is custom orthotics, which help position the foot to best distribute the weight of the body in a neutral position.  Also, physical therapy and at-home exercises are helpful for many who suffer from plantar fasciitis.  Some exercises include stretching of the calf muscles (both with the knee straight, and with the knee bent), rolling the feet out on a foot roller or frozen water bottle, and gentle massage of the arch.  Other options for treatment include steroid injections, prescription medications, immobilization, Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) and very rarely, surgery.

If pain and other symptoms of inflammation, such as redness, swelling, or warmth persist, normal daily activities should be limited. Generally, the longer the symptoms of plantar fasciitis continue, the more difficult it is to find relief.  Plantar fasciitis is only one of many causes of heel pain, so seek care from your podiatrist right away for the best treatment options for you. If you live in the Berkley, Southfield, Royal Oak, Oak Park or Ferndale areas give NorthPointe Foot & Ankle a call!