It may not seem obvious, but your foot and ankle are highly complex parts of your anatomy. Together, they contain more than 100 tendons, 33 joints, and 26 bones, and your heel bone is the largest of them all.
When heel pain develops, it can be a minor inconvenience or completely disabling. However, with a proper diagnosis, an expert can determine the cause of your discomfort and create an effective treatment strategy.
As an experienced podiatrist and avid distance runner, John Jurcisin, DPM, has extensive experience dealing with heel pain. Here are a few common causes of heel pain that Dr. Jurcisin sees at Precision Footcare in Midtown East, New York City.
One leading cause of heel pain involves the thick band of tissue that runs underneath your foot. This tissue, known as the plantar fascia, runs from your heel to your toes, and it absorbs shock during movement and supports the arch of your foot. Unfortunately, this ligament can become irritated, inflamed, or torn, leading to stabbing pain near the heel on the bottom of the foot.
With plantar fasciitis, it’s common to have the worst symptoms upon waking or after exercise.
This type of heel pain also involves a band of tissue, but it affects the tendon that attaches your calf muscle to your heel. With achilles tendinitis, the tendon becomes irritated or inflamed due to overuse.
The symptoms are usually felt on the back of the leg or above the heel, not the bottom of the foot. Furthermore, the symptoms usually start as a mild ache and grow more severe after climbing stairs, sprinting, or running.
Many people with Achilles tendinitis also have stiffness or tenderness in the area after periods of inactivity, and the symptoms often lessen with movement.
Your body has small cushions — or bursae — around many joints, including your ankles. These fluid-filled sacs act as lubricating cushions so muscles or tendons can move smoothly over nearby bones.
If an ankle bursa gets irritated or inflamed from repetitive motion or overuse, heel pain can result. Bursitis is often due to excessive running, walking, or jumping.
When you develop a heel spur, you end up with an abnormal, bone-like growth between your heel bone and arch. These calcium deposits typically start underneath your heel in front of the bone, and they can reach half an inch in length. However, even at this size, they may not be visible to the naked eye.
Not all heel spurs cause symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they often manifest in the following ways:
Depending on the size of the spur, these symptoms can spread from your heel into your arch. They usually develop over time because of long-term ligament and muscle strain.
Did you know that your bones are living tissue? They spend your entire lifetime constantly rebuilding and repairing themselves through a process known as remodeling. This is why a bone can heal after breaking. It also plays a significant role in keeping your bones strong and healthy.
A stress fracture occurs when a bone bears more force than it can handle, so a small crack appears. However, before the bone breaks, the bone often starts swelling and going through abnormal remodeling, which causes pain. Special imaging devices can detect this state, known as a stress reaction.
Signs of a stress fracture include:
You can develop stress fractures anywhere on your body, but they’re most common in the extremities and the feet. Between 20-75% of stress fractures are associated with running.
With so many different causes of heel pain, it’s key to receive an accurate diagnosis. Based on your condition, Dr. Jurcisin could recommend several approaches, such as:
Dr. Jurcisin can also make suggestions on how to avoid overuse injuries in the future.
Do you have heel pain? If so, Dr. Jurcisin can help you get well. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Precision Footcare today.