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Heel pain (plantar fasciitis)

The feet can withstand heavy weight, but a lot of stress can push them beyond their limits. Certain habits such as walking on a hard surface on a daily basis or wearing improper footwear can lead to development of heel pain. Regular joggers and runners are a category of people who are vulnerable to developing heel pain. Usually, heel pain is characterized by dull or sharp pain when the affected heel is used. The pain normally builds up slowly and tends to become worse with time. In most cases the pain is severe and is felt when weight is placed on the affected heel. Also, pain may be worse in the morning immediately after waking up or when taking first step following a period of being inactive, for instance after sitting for long hours because plantar fascia is not flexible at these times. Taking a walk can help the pain get better, but pain often worsens again after long periods of standing and walking. Both heels may be affected though in most cases it is only one heel that is usually affected. A person may limb or adopt unusual walking style in order not to exert pressure on the affected heel. The most common cause for heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This is whereby the plantar fascia (a strong and flexible cord of tissue inside the foot) gets inflamed i.e. red and sore. Plantar fascia runs below the sole of the foot and it joins the heel bone to the other parts of the foot. When plantar fascia is overstretched, there is too much traction (pulling) and inflammation. An abrupt injury for instance while running or damage occurring over several months or years due to wear and tear can cause small tears in the tissue of plantar fascia. The damage causes inflammation of plantar fascia hence resulting to pain in the heel. The heel bone and neighboring tissue can also at times get inflamed. The following can help heel pain get better; Rest the heel whenever you can and refrain from standing for long hours and walking long distances especially on uneven places. Ice therapy. Wrap an ice pack in a cloth and place it on the affected heel for about 15 minutes 3-4 times in a day. Stretch the plantar fascia and calf muscle (the muscular and fleshy part at the back of leg between the ankle and knee) regularly to decrease pain. Take an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen. This can help ease pain and reduce inflammation in the heel. Take the medication as instructed on the package to avoid overdose. Wear shoes that fit you properly and at the same time provide enough support to the feet. Manual therapy. This helps loosen the plantar fascia and stiff structures that are around the ankle joint. Use supportive devices like orthotics. These are unique inner soles which are fitted in the shoe and are aimed at helping the arch to rise and ease the tension of the plantar fascia. Surgery is rarely needed and should ONLY be performed when necessary. To help prevent heel pain, maintain a healthy weight as being overweight can strain and exert too much weight on the feet hence increasing the risk of damage to the feet and heels. Also make sure to wear correct shoes, preferably with a low-moderate heel that can support and cushion the heel and arches. Avoid shoes with very flat soles as they do not support the heel and could worsen the pain. Excessive flattening of the foot can place tension on the plantar ligament especially at the place where it connects to the heel bone. By Rebecca Muthoni http://mobile.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/Your-feet-are-faithful-servants-treat-them-well/-/1950774/2722168/-/format/xhtml/item/0/-/9730axz/-/index.html