Plantar FasciitisHandling Your Heel Pain
The very things that are meant to help us can sometimes do just the opposite. Take for instance exercise. You know it has lots of health benefits, but suddenly starting or overdoing even a simple walking program can sometimes cause overuse injuries like plantar fasciitis. We will look at the mechanics involved, your risks for this happening, and what you can do about it if it does.
The #1 Reason People’s Heels Hurt
Plantar fasciitis is pain and inflammation in a strong ligament band (plantar fascia) at the bottom of your foot. The tissue connects your heel bone to each of your toe bones, and forms the basis for your arch. It expands and contracts with your steps to cushion your bones from impact. If you suddenly increase your activity or do too much, the tissue can become stressed and damaged.
Your body’s response to this type of irritation is to fix the damage by rushing blood cells to the area that will remove the irritant and start the repair. The resulting warmth and redness in the tissue is knows as inflammation, and the process can involve swelling. Pain is a result of the swollen fascia pressing on the nerve that runs between it and the heel bone (Calcaneus). Many times the damage is worse at the point where the tendon attaches to the heel bone, which is why you feel the pain at the bottom of your calcaneus. It can radiate up into the arch area as well.
Evaluate Your Risk of Foot Pain
Distance runners are particularly susceptible to this problem because of the repeated steps without rest. The issue may appear if you suddenly increase the distance or speed of your workouts without gradually conditioning your tissue to the added strain.
Having flat feet is another risk factor, because the flattening arch puts more stress on the ligament. Being overweight or pregnant can have the same result. That is why it is so important to wear shoes that properly support your feet if you are active or carrying extra weight.
Tight calf and hamstring muscles can also increase the tension on the fascia, as can a job that requires you to stand on hard surfaces or spend long hours on your feet.
Handling Plantar Fasciitis Pain
Often treatment is aimed at reducing inflammation. However, inflammation is a necessary and basic step in all healing, because following the initial fighting of infection, it helps to form tiny rounded particles in the wounded tissue that are the building blocks for regrowth and new tissue formation.
The best thing to do is to rest your feet for a few days. The initial inflammation should gradually go away once healing begins, but you could use ice packs occasionally if the pain is severe, and we can prescribe pain relievers as well.
Then follow-up treatments can be used to recondition the tissue and head off future issues. This can involve one or more of the following therapies:
- A good stretching program is one of the best ways to reduce tension on the fascia. This includes those for the Achilles tendon, calf muscles, and hamstrings as well as the plantar fascia itself.
- Better shoes or custom orthotics to properly support the foot also relieve tension on the tissue by stabilizing the arch.
- Night braces may be used that keep the foot in a flexed position that doesn’t allow the fascia to contract too much. These can be very helpful in reducing heel pain in the morning.
- We may try treatments like ultrasound or therapeutic laser to treat your discomfort. These technologies are non-invasive ways to reduce inflammation and speed up your body’s own healing process.
Help for Plantar Fasciitis in Spring Valley and Midwood Brooklyn, NY
At Brook Valley Podiatry, Dr. Stuart Birnbaum treats many patients with morning heel pain. If your heel hurts, we invite you to schedule an appointment at our Spring Valley office by dialing (845) 352-0757 or in Brooklyn by calling (718) 434-0600. You can also request a visit at either location right here on our website. We can determine if it is indeed inflammation, or if something else like bursitis or a stress fracture could be the reason for your discomfort. Then we’ll design the right treatment to get you back to the benefits of being active without pain.