Many people above the age of 40 are found to have some degree of heel pain. Larger prevalence of heel pain can be contributed to the fact that with age the decrease in the elasticity of the plantar fascia ( found along the bottom of the foot). The time for healing also stretches with age. However, a large number of adults between the ages of 24 and 35 also suffer from heel pain sometimes resulting in heel spurs. Foot pain in such cases is often generated due to daily activities and exercises.
Cases of bilateral heel pain, that is pains in both heels are rare, nearly 30% of cases. Commonly the left heel gets affected in most people. However, to compensate with the problem the opposite heel might also show similar symptoms.
Heel pain (calcaneus) is the largest bone in the foot and the heel is the first part of the foot to contact the ground while you are walking. Mainly two structures located on the bottom (sole) of the foot are related to heel pain - plantar fascia and flexor digitorum. The former is a band of fibrous connective tissue and the later supports the flexes and arch the four small toes.
It is the foot, which carries the weight of the body while walking. Around 20% of biomechanical stability to the foot is provided by plantar fascia and muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There are cases of pediatric heel pain, which is frequently seen on the bottom rear of the heel or the sides.
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Inflammation of the plantar fascia extending from the heel to the toes is known as plantar fasciitis. It is one of the major types of heel pain. At first, the fascia becomes irritated and then it gets inflamed due to heel pain. Plantar fasciitis might lead to pain anywhere along the sole of the foot, specifically in front of the heel along the arch. It results in stress on the plantar fascia attached to the heel bone. This might cause small tears of the fascia.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of deep pain on the bottom surface of the heel. Essentially, it is a broad band of fibrous tissue that stretches along the surface of the foot until the toes. Lying just below the skin, it contains subcutaneous fat. It secures the arch.
After a long period of inflammation, there is deposition of calcium on the location where fascia inserts into the heel bone. This eventually leads to bony heel spur appearance, which can be seen on X-ray. The spur is not the major source of pain. If there is a serious stubborn heel pain, it should be evaluated by your podiatrist.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
One of the major causes of plantar fasciitis is the faulty structure of the foot. For instance, those patients having problems with arches and having excessively flat feet or high-arched feet are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis. Now, when such people wear non-supportive footwear and walk on hard surfaces, it leads to high strain on the plantar fascia and may lead to plantar fasciitis. This becomes more obvious when such a person has to work long hours on his their feet. Obesity also contributes to plantar fasciitis.
To determine the cause of heel pain, the foot and ankle surgeon would go though the medical history of the patient and examine the foot. In the process, the surgeon rules out all the possibilities of that can cause pain except plantar fasciitis.
Treatment of heel pain (especially plantar fasciitis) includes the following steps, which can be performed at home:
- Shoe modifications - Wear supportive shoes that are comfortable
- Stretching exercises - Do exercises that stretch the calf muscles
- Do not move about barefootv - This puts unnecessary strain and stress on the plantar fascia
- Apply Ice - Put ice pack on the heels for ten minutes a number of times in a day to reduce the inflammation
- Medications - To reduce the pain and inflammation take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
In case the pain persists consult a podiatrist immediately.
Dr. Maasi J. Smith, surgical podiatrist in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a foot care expert. Visit http://www.MyBadFeet.com to find abundance of information with a unique approach in regards to foot health.