It’s estimated that a quarter of Americans will suffer from chronic heel pain at some point in their lives. But that doesn’t make it normal. Heel pain that lasts longer than a week should be evaluated by a professional, since the longer you wait, the harder it will become to treat. Fortunately, we can offer a variety of effective non-surgical treatment options to get you back on your feet.
Any of the following issues sound familiar?
- Stabbing heel pain that strikes the first footsteps of the morning
- Aching feet at the end of a long day
- Can’t walk barefooted any more without significant discomfort.
You’re not alone.
Heel pain is a problem that affects people of all ages—from kids as young as 6 or 7 to seniors in their 80s, 90s and beyond.
While the symptoms may be broadly similar, there are actually a variety of conditions that could be at fault. An inflamed or torn plantar fascia ligament (plantar fasciitis) along the bottom of the heel is the most common, but far from the only diagnosis. Bone spurs, bruises, tendinitis, even inflamed growth plates (if you’re an adolescent) could be at fault.
Likewise, there are many underlying contributing factors that could play a role in developing heel pain, including poor shoes, arthritis, tumor, fracture, overuse, and even your foot structure itself.
In other words, if your heels are hurting, you’re going to want to see us for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, we are able to resolve the vast majority of cases with conservative treatment.
What Causes Heel Pain?
Any one case of heel pain may have one or several underlying root causes. The most common include:
- Poor footwear. Many shoe styles do not offer the cushioning or support your heels need. This means more pressure, greater impact forces, and a higher risk of pain. Flip flops in particular are linked with high rates of heel pain.
- Athletic overuse. If you engage in a lot of impact exercise (such as running) without giving your heels enough recovery time, heel pain can increase and become chronic. This is often complicated by the fact that many active people have a high pain threshold and may not come to see us until the pain is extreme!
- New workouts. We also tend to see a lot of heel pain from patients who have just begun a new weight loss or workout program, as well as the “weekend warrior” crowd—especially those who are starting new sports. If you’re normally sedentary or just used to different kinds of activities, doing “too much, too soon” without giving your body time to adjust can result in pain.
- Active occupations. If you’re on your feet all day at a factory, school, hospital, or any other work site that requires a lot of standing or walking, you are more likely to develop heel pain.
- Obesity. The heavier you are, the more force you place on your feet when standing, walking or running. Losing weight can help you reduce the pain—as long as you also remember the previous point about doing too much, too soon!
- Foot structure. Certain foot shapes and structure may simply be more naturally prone to developing heel pain. For example, if your arch is especially flat—or on the otherhand, especially high and rigid—it may shift your weight distribution in such a way that heels have to deal with greater force loads on a regular basis.
Do I Need to See a Doctor about My Heel Pain?
If your heel pain has only developed within the last couple of days and is not severe, you may attempt to manage it at home and see if it goes away. Use RICE therapy—rest, ice, compression, elevation. If safe for you to do so, you may try over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
If pain lasts longer than one week without getting better, you should assume that it won’t go away on its own and make an appointment.
Heel pain is not normal, and the longer you live with chronic pain, the more difficult it can become to treat. Therefore, it is imperative that you see us as soon as you can, rather than live with the discomfort for months (or more) before taking action.
Treatment Options for Heel Pain
During your appointment, we will evaluate your condition and discuss your lifestyle and medical history with you. This information allows us to customize a treatment plan that best matches your diagnosis and your needs.
Heel pain can almost always be treated conservatively, especially if you seek treatment early. Possible treatment procedures may include:
- Prescribing anti-inflammatory medications or provide a cortisone shot to help you manage the pain.
- Helping you select good shoes that cushion and support your heels, rather than damage them.
- Prescribing foot orthotics (prefabricated or custom) if necessary to further cushion and support your heels and/or improve foot mechanics and weight distribution. Our custom orthotics are fitted using an advanced computer scanning system, which helps ensure optimal results.
- Laser therapy treatments that accelerate natural healing and tissue repair mechanisms. This has proven extremely effective for even stubborn chronic injuries that might otherwise require surgery.
If your heel pain does require a surgical procedure, we provide that as well. However, this is rarely necessary, and we are 100% committed to helping you find an effective non-surgical remedy whenever possible.
If you’ve been struggling with heel pain for more than a week, or the pain is already interfering with your day to day quality of life, please make an appointment to see us as soon as possible:
- Oklahoma City: (405) 947-8041
- Enid: (680) 237-3338