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Why Does My Heel Hurt?

By Howard M. Roesen, D.P.M.

Have you ever gotten up in the morning, walked to the bathroom, and had to limp because your heel was painful? You most likely had pain secondary to plantar fasciitis, one of the most common foot problems. Plantar fasciitis comes from damage and inflammation in the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue that supports the arch in the foot. For reasons such as overuse, improper or worn out shoe wear, and trauma, the fascia can become damaged. It is a common misconception that heel pain comes from heel spurs, but actually there is no correlation between heel pain and heel spurs.

Initially to help the pain and inflammation, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as Motrin, or possibly even inject cortisone around the fascia. These treatments are helpful, but unless you get to the root of the problem, pain will most likely recur. Supporting the fascia is the most important element of the treatment. Non-supportive shoes such as loafers need to be discontinued, and supportive shoes such as running or walking shoes need to be worn at all times. In addition some type of arch support can be very helpful in the shoe to help prevent the fascia from being stressed too much while walking. Stretching the calf muscles along with icing the heel at night are also very important treatments to help decrease pain and inflammation in the fascia.

High impact exercise needs to be modified while your heel is painful. If you are running a lot or have increased your miles recently, you need to consider cross training. Spending some time on a stationary bike, road bike, elliptical trainer, or swimming can actually improve your running. Plantar fasciitis can be a very frustrating injury but can be treated effectively. Less than ten percent of the people that have plantar fasciitis need any type of surgery. A minor procedure to release a portion of the fascia has shown to be very helpful with minimal disability but is always the last resort in treatment. Preventing heel pain can be accomplished by stretching regularly, replacing your running shoes after three to four hundred miles, not increasing mileage by more than 5% per week, and limiting exercise when necessary.

About the Author

Dr. Howard Roesen is a board-certified Virginia podiatrist with offices in Newport News, Hampton, and Carrollton.
You can visit his website at www.VAfoot.com

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