Managing heel pain

Managing heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. "If you've ever felt a stabbing pain in your heel upon taking your first steps in the morning, you may be well-acquainted with this affliction," says Kenneth L. Cornell, DPM, FACFAS, Podiatry at ARC Round Rock. "As a doctor specializing in foot and ankle disorders, I frequently see patients struggling with the discomfort of plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, with proper management, relief is within reach."

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes, creating the arch of the foot. When this connective tissue becomes irritated or inflamed, it can cause stabbing pain in the heel or along the bottom of the foot, particularly with the first few steps in the morning or after prolonged periods of rest.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis

  • Sharp or stabbing pain in the heel, typically worse in the morning or after prolonged periods of standing or sitting.
  • Pain that improves with activity but returns after rest.
  • Tenderness or inflammation along the bottom of the foot.
  • Difficulty in walking or standing for long periods.

Causes of plantar fasciitis

  • Overuse or repetitive strain on the feet, such as long-distance running or standing for extended periods.
  • Flat feet or high arches, which can put extra stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons.
  • Wearing unsupportive footwear, such as flip-flops or worn-out shoes.

Preventing plantar fasciitis

Prevention is key to avoiding the discomfort of plantar fasciitis. Here are some tips to help keep your feet healthy:

  • Diet and exercise: Maintaining a healthy weight and incorporating regular exercise can help reduce the strain on your feet.
  • Rest: Avoid standing or walking for prolonged periods and elevate your feet to reduce swelling.
  • Recognize early signs: Pay attention to any discomfort or pain in your feet and address it promptly to prevent it from worsening.
  • Choose the right footwear: Invest in supportive shoes with good arch support and cushioning, especially if you're on your feet for long periods.

Treating plantar fasciitis and heel pain

Most people who have plantar fasciitis recover in several months with conservative treatments, such as:

  • Rest: Give your feet a break from activities that exacerbate the pain, such as high-impact exercises or prolonged standing.
  • Stretch: Perform gentle stretching exercises for the calves, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia to improve flexibility and reduce tension.
  • Massage: Use a tennis ball or frozen water bottle to roll under your foot, applying gentle pressure to the affected area to relieve tension and inflammation.
  • Ice: Applying ice packs or frozen water bottles to the bottom of your foot can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

Additionally, your podiatrist may recommend other therapies, such as:

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can show you exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles. A therapist also might teach you to apply athletic taping to support the bottom of your foot.
  • Night splints: Wearing a splint that holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight to promote stretching while you sleep.
  • Orthotics: Your podiatrist might prescribe arch supports, called orthotics, to distribute the pressure on your feet more evenly.
  • Walking boot, cane, or crutches: Your podiatrist might recommend a mobility aid for a brief period either to keep you from moving your foot or to keep you from placing your full weight on your foot.
  • Injections: Injecting steroid medicine into the tender area can provide temporary pain relief.
  • Surgery: A few people might need surgery. It is generally an option only when the pain is serious and other treatments have failed.

Plantar fasciitis can be a debilitating condition, but with proper prevention and treatment, you can find relief and get back on your feet. "By understanding the symptoms, you can take control of your foot health and live an active, pain-free life," says Dr. Cornell. "Remember, your feet carry you through life, so it's essential to give them the care and attention they deserve."

Make an appointment today

ARC Podiatrists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of foot and ankle issues in patients of all ages. They address lower leg health, offering medical, orthotic, and surgical solutions for various ailments such as bunions and stress fractures, as well as pediatric issues such as flat foot and plantar warts.

Dr. Cornell sees patients of all ages. Make an appointment through ARC MyChart or ARC Help Me Book today. Don't let foot or ankle pain hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest—schedule a consultation today and take the first step towards healthier, happier feet.

Tags: Plantar fasciitis