Heel pain or arch pain is a very common injury to occur in adults. Often the pain is a result of plantar fasciitis or a heel spur. Less commonly it is a result of fat pad atrophy, nerve entrapment, or even a stress fracture. If the pain is felt at the back of the heel, it can also be Achilles tendinosis or a result of Haglund’s deformity. It is important for a proper diagnosis so that it can be treated effectively. Seeing a foot specialist such as a Pedorthist, Podiatrist or Chiropodist can save a considerable amount of time in providing an appropriate treatment plan.
Shooting pain down the bottom of the foot, often most painful first thing in the morning or after periods of rest, when the affected person first gets out of bed. If the pain gets better initially with activity but then worsens later in the day, this is a common symptom of plantar fasciitis. The symptoms often occur with long periods of standing and start off mild and progressively get worse.
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the toes. The inflammation occurs as a result of many micro tears to the plantar fascia tissue. The microtears can cause pain and swelling, and significantly imped your lifestyle. A heel spur can develop when the plantar fascia chronically pulls on the calcaneus (heel bone) causing a bone spur to develop.
Stretching and proper warmup before and after activity can help, as can rest, ice, compression and elevation. Specific exercises to building tissue resilience can be effective as a long-term solution. Avoid going barefoot, and wear well structured footwear. Taping can help to support the arch, and medication can help manage pain. Align Orthotics can effectively support the arch and improve foot function as an immediate and longer-term solution, respectively. By temporarily immobilizing the foot, the tissue can better heal and recover - often a plantar fasciitis night splint is effective to achieve this. Use a small massage ball to increase blood flow, reduce tension in the tissue, and alleviate pain, however it is important the ball is small enough to fit the contours of the foot (typically the size of a golf ball). Specific braces such as the OST sock can effectively provide compression and provide immediate relief to symptoms. Lastly, toe aligners (aka toe spacers), can be used to separate the metatarsals and thereby provide relief to the plantar fascia. For a full rehab program on plantar fasciitis, check out this video.