At Sunshein Podiatry Associates, we take pride in being able to help our patients overcome pain and difficulty from a wide range of conditions and injuries.
No matter if you sustained a foot or ankle sports injury, have developed a painful bunion, or are living with discomfort from an ingrown toenail – we can create a treatment plan to resolve the problem.
Of course, just because we treat so many different foot issues doesn’t mean they are all equally common. In fact, there tends to be one particular problem that brings more patients in to see us than any other one – heel pain.
There are several potential causes of heel pain, with the leading one being plantar fasciitis.
To best understand this common condition, it can be helpful to know a bit about the anatomy of your heel, starting with the heel bone (calcaneus). This particular bone sits at the back of the foot, underneath the talus bone.
Two very important soft tissues connect to the calcaneus – your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.
Whereas issues certainly can—and do!—arise on account of the Achilles tendon, the plantar fasciitis is an injury to the plantar fascia – which you were probably able to guess.
Now, there are certainly issues that can arise on account of the Achilles tendon, but—as you might expect—plantar fasciitis is an injury to the plantar fascia.
So what is a fascia, and what specifically is the plantar fascia?
Well, a fascia is a thin, fibrous sheath of connective tissue enclosing muscles, groups of muscles, or organs.
The plantar fascia, specifically, bridges the rearfoot to the forefoot. This fibrous tissue runs along the bottom of the foot and supports the arch. In doing so, it’s a bit like the string you pull back on bow before letting an arrow fly.
Plantar fasciitis is a very common overuse injury caused when the plantar fascia is subjected to excessive stress. The extra forces cause tiny tears in the tissue, and repeated stretching and tearing results in irritation, inflammation, and pain.
As we look at the symptoms of the condition, the most easily identified sign of plantar fasciitis is an intense, stabbing pain accompanying the first steps following extended periods of rest. This pain is felt in the bottom of the heel, and is often quite pronounced in the morning (after a night’s sleep).
The heel pain will usually subside in time as you move around, but it does return again after any additional periods of rest or time spent standing in one spot. This is explained by the fact that the body works to repair the fascia during those times of rest, but the subsequent steps rip the tears back open.
That highlights the importance of seeking treatment!
There are stretching exercises that not only can potentially alleviate the pain you encounter with this condition, but also possibly prevent it from happening in the first place. Some of the better stretches you may want to try include:
- Achilles Tendon Stretch – Stand approximately a foot and a half in front of a wall with your hands on it. Place your left foot behind the right one so the toes touch the heel. Keeping your back leg straight, bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in your lower left leg. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat two more times.
- Plantar Fascia Stretch – Sit barefoot in a chair and place your foot over your knee. Using the hand on the same side as your foot, gently pull back on your toes until you feel a good stretch along the bottom of your foot. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch feet. Repeat two more times.
- Towel Pulls – Place a towel on the floor and grab it with your toes and pull the towel towards you, then switch feet. Repeat 10 times.
Stretching exercises can be a great place to start for heel pain treatment—and may even turn out to be all the care you need—but there’s also a strong possibility you will require additional treatment, such as tried-and-true standbys like RICE therapy and NSAIDs.
Used in the case of medical treatment, RICE is an acronym standing for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest is necessary to prevent further injury from happening, while at the same time giving the body an opportunity to perform natural healing processes. Ice, compression, and elevation all play roles in pain relief and/or reducing inflammation.
RICE can be used for treatment, but is also a valuable first aid technique to use immediately following injury.
NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These are typically purchased over-the-counter and include various brands of ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and aspirin. A prescription NSAID we might prescribe is celecoxib – which you may better recognize by its brand name of Celebrex.
You might need to use a combination of RICE and NSAID treatment to manage your heel pain until you are able to come in for your appointment.
Beyond heel pain treatment options that are more traditional in nature, we are proud to offer several state-of-art methods, such as:
- Orthotic Therapy – Depending on the root cause of your condition, we may use specially crafted shoe inserts (orthotics) to control irregular foot motion or provide additional support for any areas of the foot that require it. Unlike off-the-shelf shoe inserts bought at retail stores, these are customized to work with your unique foot structure and gait patterns. (Whereas store-bought inserts can give some extra cushioning or arch support, they are not intended to treat medical conditions in the same way podiatrist-approved inserts or orthotics can.)
- Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (ESWT) – In this advanced treatment, we capitalize on the energy of powerful acoustic waves, which are directed at the injury site. Once there, the waves stimulate and enhance natural healing processes, along with reducing inflammation and improving blood flow to the area.
- MLS Laser Therapy – Lasers have been playing an increasingly larger role in the medical field, and especially when it comes to treating soft tissue injuries. In the same way that ESWT uses sound, this particular treatment capitalizes on light energy. We can direct amplified light beams (lasers) that are calibrated specifically to travel through tissue and reach the injury site, where the energy then initiates and enhances natural healing processes (repair, regeneration) on a cellular level.
For more information about heel pain or heel pain treatment, either call our office at (937) 435-7477 or connect with us online today.