By Melissa J. Lockwood, DPM, Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, P.C.
Have you ever woken up and stepped out of bed to a sharp, burning pain in your heels? Well you are not alone. Heel pain is one of the most common problems I see in my office. The good news for you? It is easily treated in the majority of cases!
So, what is this “pain in the heel?” It is usually the inflammation and tearing of a band of tissue on the bottom of your foot called the plantar fascia. This ligament helps support your arch as you walk. When any soft tissue ligament is inflamed, the body attempts to heal itself by repairing it “at rest.” Easy to do — except when we have to walk on these healing feet! There are two ‘”tricks of the trade” when it comes to heel pain: stretching and icing! Below are some specifics to help you ease the pain.
For the inflammation:
- Ice the area regularly. There are great foot rollers on the market that can be frozen to help with this task. Even a water bottle, filled up and frozen, can do the trick. Simply roll your foot on the roller two to three times a day to decrease the inflammation in your heel (while sitting of course!).
- There are some topical medications that can assist the icing. Biofreeze is a great example and good for those “on the go” moments when ice isn’t available.
- When icing isn’t doing the trick, patients sometimes need anti-inflammatory medication or even a small shot of steroid to help reduce the inflammation. It’s best to head on into your podiatrist’s office for these more advanced therapies.
For the mechanics: (because we don’t want this to come back!)
- Stretch the area regularly and stretch your Achilles tendon to keep both from becoming stiff and tight. You want the plantar fascia to heal in the elongated position, so the best time to stretch is right before you stand up from bed or a sitting position. That way it is gently stretched without being torn.
- Medical-grade inserts can also be helpful in supporting your arch as it heals.
- Some patients require custom, functional orthotics to be made for them. This depends on your foot type, the severity of the condition and other corrective measures already performed by your podiatrist.
- Rarely, patients require surgery to correct the torn and inflamed fascia. This is not commonly performed simply because most patients do very well with conservative treatment options.
Don’t go barefoot — even in the house — and wear shoes that give enough arch support to keep heel pain from returning. While flats and some types of athletic shoes may at first be super comfortable, if they do not give enough support, you’ll be in pain after just a few hours.
For more information regarding heel pain or any foot problem, please contact Dr. Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, at 309-661-9975 or www.heartlandfootandankle.com. Their office is located at 10 Heartland Dr. in Bloomington.