Methods for Effective Heel Pain Treatment

by | Apr 17, 2017

One of the most common reasons patients come see us here at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic is to find relief from heel pain. The truth of the matter, though, is that not nearly enough people have their heel pain treated. Because it’s such a common issue, too many individuals think it isn’t a big deal or anything to worry about. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking won’t lead to the condition getting better.

What is especially sad about those who don’t seek treatment is the simple fact many cases of heel pain can be treated without needing surgical intervention. Conservative (nonsurgical) care is often quite effective for relieving heel pain.

Some of the leading causes of heel pain include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and Sever’s disease (for younger patients who are still growing). In all of these instances, soft tissue is affected. For plantar fasciitis, it is the plantar fascia (which connects the heel to the forefoot). In the cases of Achilles tendinitis and Sever’s disease, the Achilles tendon plays an integral role.

It is worth mentioning those tissues because one way to manage (and even prevent) heel pain from Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis is to keep the soft tissues limber. This can be done by doing stretches like:

  • Eccentric heel drop. Standing on the edge of a step (with only the toes and ball of foot making contact with the step) and facing the stairs, slowly lower both heels down, hold for 10 seconds, and then raise back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
  • Toe stretches. Sitting in a chair with one leg crossed over the other, grab your big toe of the elevated foot and gently pull back towards you. Once you feel the stretch, hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then release.
  • Calf stretches. Starting an arm’s length in front of a wall, place your hands on the wall and step forward with your left leg. Keeping the right heel on the ground and knee straight, slowly bend your left leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the right calf. Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and then release.

In addition to stretches as a way to treat heel pain, we may prescribe or recommend medication like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—like naproxen or ibuprofen—to ease inflammation and pain from the condition. We may recommend certain strengthening exercises to supplement the stretching routine. Depending on your case, we may also prescribe orthotics—either an off-the-shelf model or custom devices—to redistribute pressure on your feet in a more equitable manner.

Conservative care is usually rather effective, but in rare cases we will recommend surgery. This can be done to detach the affected plantar fascia from the heel bone when nonsurgical methods have not provided the results we hoped to see. We typically reserve this as an option in cases where pain is severe and debilitating.

The best treatment for heel pain—or any medical condition, actually—is to prevent it from developing in the first place. Measures you can take to reduce your risk of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis include:

  • Wear shoes that fit correctly.
  • Stretch your lower limbs daily.
  • Ease into high-impact physical activities (such as running or playing sports like basketball or tennis).
  • Cross-train with low-impact exercises like yoga, swimming, and cycling.

If you need expert foot care, our team at Anderson Foot & Ankle Clinic is ready to help you. Our Salt Lake City podiatrist office provides comprehensive treatment for lower limb problems, so contact us and find out what we can do for you. Either take advantage of our online form or give us a call at (801) 269-9939 and one of our staff members will be glad to answer any questions and help schedule your appointment.

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