What that Dreadful Heel Pain in the Morning May Mean

Aug 14, 2019

The sun is shining. Birds are singing. It’s time to seize the day! … If heel pain doesn’t zap you as soon as you hop out of bed, that is.

If the thought of your feet getting out from under the covers and hitting the floor causes you hesitation, you are far from alone in this dilemma. Pain in the morning is reported by many people. It can be a sharp jolt or a dull ache. It can be accompanied by stiffness and take a few minutes to “work out” before you can get on with your day.

Whatever your symptoms may be, one truth remains: persistent pain is not a normal part of life and something should be done about it!

Fortunately, when it comes to heel pain, the vast majority of cases are treatable. Patients can feel a significant reduction in their discomfort, and often make their pain disappear entirely!

It all comes down to a matter of determining the cause of your heel pain—and you just so happen to know an expert in that field.

What Causes Morning Heel Pain?

When seeking the source of heel pain that arises as soon as your feet drop to the floor each morning, a prime suspect is plantar fasciitis.

This condition involves the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that travels from the base of the toes to the heel bone. It is a very strong, very purposeful part of the foot, helping to form the arch and properly use the energy we store and expend while moving.

However, when the plantar fascia becomes overstressed, it can lead to microtears, inflammation, and pain. While plantar fasciitis can be common in runners and other athletes who push their routines too hard, it can also be present in workers and others who must spend long, extended periods of time on their feet.

Why does all this frequently lead to heel pain in the morning? When the plantar fascia is not in use, it can “tighten up.” This leads to that pain you feel in the morning (and similarly when you start moving after any long period of inactivity). After a few minutes, the pain tends to decrease as the plantar fascia “warms up.”

Now, plantar fasciitis may not be the only potential cause of heel pain. Achilles tendinitis may also need to be considered, and perhaps even heel spurs as well.

(Fun fact, though: When we do see heel spurs, they are more often than not causing no pain in themselves. They are often more of an accompaniment to the real problem that is causing the spurs as a side effect. This real problem is often—surprise!—plantar fasciitis.)

Whatever the underlying cause, it is very important that we properly diagnose both the condition and how it came to be. Not all forms of heel pain are treatable via the same precise method, and knowing exactly what’s going on will give us the best chance to develop an effective treatment strategy.

Making for Better Mornings

Morning heel pain is very addressable once we have a firm grasp of its causes. Conservative treatments frequently have significant, positive effects on a patient’s comfort and quality of life, meaning it is very, very rare to ever worry about surgery being the only solution to the problem (and we never consider it unless it is!).

Some of the treatments we may recommend for heel pain include:

  • Night braces or night splints that hold the plantar fascia (or other soft tissues) in a slightly stretched state, making for less pain in the mornings.
  • A stretching or exercise program to build strength, mobility, and/or flexibility in needed areas of the foot and ankle.
  • If you are already actively working out, you might need to make changes to your program to reduce the overall intensity or duration of exercises. This might include introducing cross-training or lower-impact forms of exercise.
  • Changes in footwear to provide greater support or cushioning to stressed areas of the feet.
  • The use of custom orthotics to provide very specific support to areas of the foot—especially those that have a structural abnormality.

In certain cases, we might even recommend the use of an advanced technology, such as ultrasound therapy or laser therapy. Each method can stimulate the body’s own natural healing processes, helping to accelerate healing, reduce pain, and decrease inflammation.

If we feel the forms of treatment above may be beneficial to you, we will be more than happy to discuss them further—as well as answer any further questions you may have, of course! We always want our patients to go into any treatment plan with all the knowledge they need.

Don’t Go One More Day without Heel Pain Treatment

Your mornings need to start off on the right foot—and it’s hard to do so when your heels are giving you trouble.

The longer you put off addressing the causes of your heel pain, the more time you are draining away in misery. Not only that, but the problems can become even more painful and harder to treat over time.

Your Spring Valley podiatry office is here for you. Give us a call at (845) 352-7507 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch.

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