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Heel Pain

Dr. Matt Brown
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What is heel pain?

Because feet absorb a great amount of pressure and stress every day, it’s not unusual for patients to experience heel pain. Typically, heel pain can resolve on its own with enough rest; however, because the pain tends to develop gradually, patients often fail to recognize when to rest a sore heel. With continued (over)use, a sore heel can become chronic.

Heel pain can generally be grouped into two categories: pain beneath the heel and pain behind the heel. Pain beneath the heel is often caused by plantar fasciitis or a heel spur, though it can also be caused by bruising. Pain behind the heel is frequently attributed to inflammation of the Achilles tendon.Source: OrthoInfo

The symptoms of heel pain

Because a number of different conditions can cause heel pain, symptoms can vary widely. Pain may be dull and chronic or sharp and intermittent, depending on the underlying cause. Patients with heel pain may also experience redness, swelling, and inflammation in the heel.

In severe cases, patients may experience difficulty walking or standing. Over time, chronic heel pain can permanently alter walking gait and affect the patient’s ability to balance. This can make patients more vulnerable to other injuries, such as those caused by falling.

The most common symptoms of heel pain include:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty walking

Source: Healthline

What causes heel pain?

Heel pain can be attributed to a wide range of conditions. However, pain on the bottom of the heel is most often due to plantar fasciitis, while pain on the back of the heel is most commonly due to tendonitis in the Achilles.

Bursitis, arthritis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, heel spurs, bone tumors, and Achilles tendon ruptures are among the conditions that can potentially cause heel pain. Generally speaking, if heel pain is persistent or hinders normal motion, it’s advised that patients seek professional medical advice.

The most common causes of heel pain include:

  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Bruising
  • Arthritis
  • Heel spurs
  • Bursitis

Source: Mayo Clinic

Physical therapy for heel pain

Most conditions that cause heel pain do not require surgery and can be resolved with rest and physical therapy. A physical therapy program designed to treat heel pain will likely begin with a reduction of the patient’s activity levels — rest is often vital to healing an injured foot. A physical therapist can also help the patient create lifestyle modifications that will allow the heel to recover.

A licensed physical therapist can guide the patient through exercises and stretches designed to help the heel to recover quickly, safely, and effectively, as well as provide recommendations and guidance on the use of cushions, insoles, and tape.

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