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Heel pain - why you should see a podiatrist early rather than later

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Heel pain is a very common issue that can trouble many individuals of all ages and sizes. Especially during the summer, we tend to be on our feet more, in addition to the increased heat and dryness, our heels tend to take quite a hit especially going more barefoot and wearing less supportive footwear.

Pain in the heel is a very general term with complications including but not exclusive to from the following list just to name a few:

For Example:

  • Plantar fasciitis,

  • Achilles tendinopathy,

  • Tibialis Posterior tendinopathy,

  • Retrocalcaneal Bursitis

  • Fissuring in heels, which can lead to bleeding,

  • Sever's disease

  • Heel spurs

  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Some people that are of a higher risk of developing different types of heel pain. Some of these factors can be: Middle-aged men and women, physically active people, those overweight or obese, people who are on their feet for long periods of time due to work or hobbies, children aged between 8 and 13 years (particularly boys) - Sever's and finally women during pregnancy.

Causes of heel pain

Some of the many causes of heel pain can include:

  • Ill-fitting shoes

  • Prolonged standing, running or repetitive jumping on hard surfaces

  • Injury from impact to the heel

  • Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa)

  • Abnormal gait (walking style), such as rolling the feet inwards

  • Foot type i.e. flat feet

  • Certain chronic conditions, including diabetes and arthritis.

  • Obesity

  • Nerve entrapment

Fun fact: Heel spurs are not the same as Plantar Fasciitis. Heel Spurs are a bony addition to the heel bone (Calcaneus) and usually do not cause any pain. Rather, Heel Spurs usually sit deeper within the bottom of the foot and often do not contact the Plantar Fascia

When should you see a podiatrist?

Depending on the severity and type of heel pain, it is best to see a Podiatrist earlier rather than later. Especially with cases such as plantar fasciitis and Sever's, if not tended to early, the pain may persist and become chronic, worsening over time.

Sever's is an interesting type of a an injury which occurs mostly in children who are physically active and still growing, with ages ranging 10-15. Sever’s disease occurs when the growth plate of the heel is injured and becomes inflamed. Where the bones in the calf grow faster than the Achilles tendon, the tendon can become very tight. The heel is then more prone to injury and swelling, especially if the person is undertaking a lot of physical activity.

Overall, the earlier you seek treatment, the easier it is for a Podiatrist to help you prevent further damage and the discomfort can usually subside within a week. However some of the longer, chronic standing heel pain cases can often take longer from 6 weeks to sometimes 6 months of treatment and lifestyles changes. Heel pain, if untreated can last anywhere from a few weeks up to 2 years. In some cases, it can be very debilitating.

As a Podiatry clinic, we see these conditions on a daily basis, and very often,

Early Treatment/ Intervention = Less pain and Better recovery

How can a podiatrist help?

Treatments offered to every patient differ according to each patient's individual presentations, lifestyle and pain levels.

1. Taping and padding to support the foot and help with correct alignment. Utilisation of padding and taping can reduce stretching of the plantar fascia throughout gait thus reducing load and pain. If you are allergic to taping and adhesives, we can also prescribe some compression socks and support sleeves for you to wear.

2.Ultrasound/Laser therapy is utilised highly by us when plantar fasciitis is painful. Both work in different ways to mediate the body's inflammation (reduce pain), to help blood flow and to promote cells in clearing out toxins.

3. Shockwave therapy is a great natural alternative for those very chronic heel pain clients who might want relief from pain. Shockwave therapy can trigger healing via a probe which causes a controlled healing response by tricking the body to think the injury is new. The controlled re-injury of the soft tissue can cause a new inflammatory phase of the affected area and promote natural healing over a course of treatments.

4. Dry Needling treatment is also fantastic at bring new blood flow into an old injured area to help promote healing and it's natural. Great for those clients who can't take any anti-inflammatory medications due to allergic reactions. We recommend a course of 4-6 treatments for best results.

5. Anti- Inflammatory agents (oral/topical) such as Voltaren and Neurofen can aid in reducing pain and the body's response to tissue stress thus reducing pain. We recommend anti- inflammatory use with care and only in conjunction with other treatments

6. Footwear assessment and education. Often, people wear non- supportive shoes by mistake. Wearing shoes with good fixation, slightly inclined heels, supportive soles and solid heel counters will act to reduce the stress on the plantar fascia.

7. Orthotic therapy is often a good option for treatment of plantar fasciitis as the devices work with the feet to support them and reduce biomechanical stress on the tissue. We prescribe orthotics of different types and at different price points at the clinic and always use orthotic therapy in conjunction with other treatment modalities to get full, holistic healing.

8. X- ray and diagnostic Ultrasound referral are modalities that we refer off for if we suspect additional problems or if a patient is in excessive pain or for confirmation of a diagnosis.

If any of the above doesn't help you, as a podiatrist we can also refer to a podiatric surgeon or ultrasound guided cortisone injection if you are in extreme persistent pain.

So, if you have been putting up with heel pain for a while or it's just starting to bother you, it's best to seek treatment at a podiatrist to get a correct diagnoses and treatment. We hope you have found the above information helpful. If you need any further information or wish to make an appointment with one of our podiatrists, we would love to help you.

We are located at 108 Bridport St, Albert Park Vic 3206, or you can call us on 03 8648 7678. Alternatively, you can click on the book now button below and it will take you to our online booking page.

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