Heel pain can be caused by many factors, including shoe style, posture, underlying diseases and conditions, and repetitive habits that place excessive strain on the heel, foot and ankle. Some of the most common causes of heel pain are:
A heel spur is a bony growth that forms along the underside of the heel bone, extending by as much as a half inch beyond the bone surface. Heel spurs form as a result of excess strain on the ligaments and muscles of the foot which in turn causes inflammation and irritation. Over time, the membrane that covers and protects the heel bone can be damaged and torn. Repetitive pressure from running or jogging, problems with gait, obesity and ill-fitting shoes can all cause heel spurs to form.
Bursa are small, fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning, especially near joints. Bursitis occurs when these sacs become inflamed and painful. Chronic bursitis can sometimes lead to a condition called Haglund’s deformity, an enlargement of the heel bone where it attaches to the Achilles tendon. Haglund’s deformity can often be exacerbated by a specific shoe style or shoe stitching.
The Achilles tendon attaches the calf muscle (and other muscles) the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis occurs when this tendon becomes inflamed and irritated, especially where it attaches to the back of the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is especially common among people with very tight tendons, with symptoms becoming worse with repeated walking or running. Over time, the tendon fibers become strained and stretched, resulting in tiny tears that lead to inflammation and pain. In some cases, tendinitis can also cause inflammation in the heel bursa.
Heel pain diagnosis begins with a review of the patient’s symptoms and medical history, followed by a hands-on evaluation and passive and active movements to identify the source of pain. X-rays may also be ordered. Depending on the cause, treatment can include the application of ice and heat, state-of-the-art laser treatments, use of custom orthotics or braces, rest and, in some cases, surgery. Physical therapy and therapeutic exercises may also help.
Our Pain Laser at NOVA Foot and Ankle in Herndon and Springfield, Virginia is FDA cleared to emit energy in the visible and infrared spectrum, to provide topical heating for the purpose of elevating tissue temperature for the temporary relief of minor muscle and joint pain or stiffness, minor arthritis pain, or muscle spasm, the temporary increase in local blood circulation, or the temporary relaxation of muscle.