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Heel Spur

What is Heel Pain?

Heel pain is the most common sports injury seen by podiatrists and can affect all age groups and Plantar fasciitis (with or without a heel spur) is the most common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is an irritation of the origin of the plantar fascia (tissue that helps to maintain your foot arch) underneath the heel or in the arch of the foot. Sometimes a heel ‘spur’ may be present, but not always. Injury to the plantar fascia can occur due to a sudden impact and tear (eg: jumping down off a large step) or due to repetitive trauma (eg: everyday walking on hard surfaces). 

Other less common causes of heel pain include: heel fat pad bruising, stress fracture of the heel bone, nerve entrapment, bursitis and inflammatory arthritic conditions. In active children between the ages of 7 to 12, the most common cause of heel pain is Sever’s Apophysitis – an irritation of the growth plate at the back of the heel. 

How long will it last?

Duration of symptoms normally depends on the diagnosis. Heel pain can last from days to months. Early diagnosis and treatment will often significantly reduce the duration of heel pain. 

Symptoms

  • Usually there is a gradual onset of pain, possibly following an increase in weightbearing activity.
  • Pain on first step in the morning which often causes the sufferer to “hobble” for a few minutes.
  • Ache/throb in the heel following activity or at the end of a long day standing.
  • In severe cases, the sufferer will have difficulty placing the heel on the ground and will walk on their toes to avoid pain.

Suggestions for managing heel pain

Consult your physiotherapist or sports podiatrist for diagnosis, treatment and footwear review. In the meantime you can try the following:    

  • Avoid or reduce any activities you think might be increasing your pain.
  • Apply ice for 5 to 10 minutes 2-3 times per day to settle down inflammation and pain.
  • Stretch your calf muscles at least 3-4 times per day, hold each stretch for 15 seconds.
  • Massage using your hands or by rolling a golf ball under the arch of your foot. You can combine ice with massage by freezing a plastic water bottle, wrapping it with a cloth and rolling it under the heel and the arch of the foot for 10 minutes.
  • Wear appropriate footwear (eg: well fitted running/walking shoes), avoid completely flat soled shoes.

Professional Treatment Options

Your podiatrist and/or physiotherapist will be able to identify the cause of your heel pain and formulate an appropriate treatment plan including heel raises, taping, stretching, strengthening, footwear changes, night splints and foot orthotics if required. In chronic cases of plantar fasciitis where conservative measures have failed to reduce pain, local anaesthetic or corticosteroid injection therapy may be require to reduce symptoms and inflammation. 

Contact us now to discuss your heel pain treatment options.