If you overuse or hurt your heel, you might go through heel discomfort This can vary from moderate to disabling. You may require to have a physician or podiatric doctor diagnose the cause if simple natural home remedies don’t ease the discomfort.
Your foot and ankle are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons. The heel is the biggest bone in your foot. There are a wide number of reasons why you may be experiencing heel pain.
People who might be at increased risk of heel pain
Anyone can suffer from heel pain, however, certain groups appear to be at increased risk. These groups include:
- Middle-aged males and females
- Physically active individuals
- Individuals who are obese
- Individuals who are on their feet for long periods
- Kids aged between eight and 13 years
- Females during pregnancy.
Common causes of heel pain
Heel discomfort is not generally caused by one single injury, such as a twist or fall. But rather, from recurring tension and pounding of the heel. Typical causes consist of:
Plantar fasciitis, or swelling of the plantar fascia
The plantar fascia is a strong bowstring-like ligament that ranges from the calcaneum (heel bone) to the top of the foot. This type of pain often occurs because of the way the foot is made, for instance, if the arches are specifically high or low.
When the plantar fascia is extended too far, the soft tissue fibres end up being swollen. This usually takes place where it connects to the heel bone, however it often impacts the middle of the foot. This type of pain is felt under the foot and generally after extended periods of rest. Calf-muscle cramps may take place if the Achilles tendon tightens too.
An abnormal walking style, such as rolling the feet inwards, can put extra strain on the plantar fascia. Chronic inflammation might develop which after some time may cause bony growths or spurs to develop. Getting an x-ray will show if this is the case but you can generally tell if you have a spur if you have a tender spot in the heel of the affected foot.
You may even have a heel spur and don’t even know it. It is estimated that about one in 10 Australians have heel spurs but have no symptoms. The spur itself does not trigger the discomfort, however, but you may experience pains due to the associated inflammation in the area.
A stress fracture usually occurs due to recurring stress, strenuous exercises, sports, or heavy manual work. Runners are especially susceptible to tension fracture in the metatarsal bones of the foot. Some people also have stress fractures due to osteoporosis.
Also known as degenerative tendinopathy, tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy, it is a chronic condition due to the break down of the Achilles tendon.
One of the common reasons for heel discomfort in children aged eight to 16 is Sever’s disease. Sever’s disease is due to stress placed on the growth plate of the heel bone. When a child endures excessive running or jumping, this causes inflammation to the growth plate, which results in discomfort. Rest, ice, stretching of the calf muscle and heel lifts are usually prescribed.
When should you call your doctor?
If you start to experience heel aches and pains, you may find that some natural home remedies such as rest can help to ease the pains. However, if the discomfort does not improve within two to three weeks, you should visit your doctor.
Having said that, it is best to call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience the following:
- The pain is extreme
- The discomfort starts all of a sudden
- You have inflammation in your heel
- You have swelling in your heel
- You can’t walk because of the pain in your heel
Your doctor will be able to take a look at your foot and ask about the pain, they will ask about your physical activity levels, what shoes you use, and any other information about the history of the pain you’re feeling.
Squeezing the heel can help detect nerve issues, the existence of a cyst, or a tension fracture. A physical examination may enough to make a medical diagnosis, but sometimes blood tests or imaging scans are required.