Being on your feet–whether chasing little ones or just as part of your job–can quickly lead to exhaustion on any day of the week. As the days add up, in addition to being a pain in the neck, sometimes it can cause actual real pain in your heel.
Plantar fasciitis (pronounced fashee-EYE-tiss) is the most common cause of heel pain. Brian T. Perry, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon at the Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic, says he regularly treats patients with the condition. “It’s pretty common in people who are on their feet all day or don’t wear supportive shoes.” Being overweight or having tight calf muscles are also contributing factors.
The plantar fascia is “a thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects heel to toes and supports the arch,” Dr. Perry says. In someone suffering from plantar fasciitis, “where it inserts on the heel, it gets inflamed and has these little tears and develops pain.” The pain will most commonly be the first few steps when getting out of bed and again at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, most people will let the pain linger before seeking treatment. “There’s no quick fix,” Dr. Perry says. “It takes longer to resolve when it’s been going on for so long.”
Stretching the calf muscles is the most important treatment as well as prevention, Dr. Perry says. Another treatment is a massage of the painful heel. Antiinflammatory drugs, taken regularly for 7-10 days, can also help. People suffering from this type of heel pain should wear supportive shoes with cushioned inserts and avoid walking around barefoot.
Other treatments can include injections, physical therapy, dry needling or wearing a plantar fascia night splint to keep the heel aligned while sleeping. “Surgery is rarely indicated,” Dr. Perry says.
Treating plantar fasciitis takes time. “It’s not just, here’s a shot or seven day treatment, and it goes away,” Dr. Perry says. “This is something patients have to work at–do their stretching exercises, dedicate time out of their day each day, or it really won’t get better.”