What May Cause Heel Pain To Flare Up

Pain At The Heel

Overview

Heel pain is most commonly caused by plantar fasciitis, which is the swelling of the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes at the bottom part of the foot, also known as the plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is often described as sharp pain in the middle of the heel, which is typically worse after periods of rest when fascia contracts. The pain usually becomes more bearable as the muscles loosen up during the low-impact walking, but can return even worse after extended periods of walking or standing. The plantar fascia serves as a shock absorber and supports the foot’s arch. Too much tension on the plantar fascia can cause inflammation and swelling. Fortunately in most cases, plantar fasciitis treatment is fairly conservative. Plantar fasciitis exercises, medications and orthotics are usually all that’s needed to manage the pain. Most severe cases may require surgery.




Causes

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot is overstretched or overused. This can be painful and make walking more difficult. You are more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you Have foot arch problems (both flat feet and high arches), run long distances, downhill or on uneven surfaces, are obese or gain weight suddenly, have a tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel), wear shoes with poor arch support or soft soles. Plantar fasciitis is seen in both men and women. However, it most often affects active men ages 40 - 70. It is one of the most common orthopedic foot complaints. Plantar fasciitis was commonly thought to be caused by a heel spur. However, research has found that this is not the case. On x-ray, heel spurs are seen in people with and without plantar fasciitis.




Symptoms

Patients with plantar fasciitis typically experience pain underneath the heel and along the inner sole of the foot. In less severe cases, patients may only experience an ache or stiffness in the plantar fascia or heel that increases with rest (typically at night or first thing in the morning) following activities which place stress on the plantar fascia. These activities typically include standing, walking or running excessively (especially up hills, on uneven surfaces or in poor footwear such as thongs), jumping, hopping and general weight bearing activity. The pain associated with this condition may also warm up with activity in the initial stages of injury. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during sport or activity, affecting performance. In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Patients with this condition may also experience swelling, tenderness on firmly touching the plantar fascia (often on a specific spot on the inner aspect of the heel) and sometimes pain on performing a plantar fascia stretch.




Diagnosis

A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Occasionally, further investigations such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be required to assist with diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.




Non Surgical Treatment

Rest until the pain resolves and you are feeling better. For most people with plantar fasciitis it is very difficult to rest as daily routine demands using their feet during the day for work or other activities. By using the painful foot you keep on hurting the plantar fascia, harming the foot and increasing inflammation. Rest as much as you can, reduce unnecessary activities and additional stress on the fascia. Cold therapy like applying ice to the bottom of your foot helps reduce pain and inflammation. Cold therapy can be used all the time until symptoms have resolved. Some patients prefer to roll their foot over an iced cold drink can or bottle taken out of the freezer. Physical therapy Exercises are good plantar fasciitis treatment. Stretching and other physical therapy measures may be used to provide relief. Stretching the plantar fascia is reported in scientific studies to be a very effective treatment technique. Gait analysis will determine if you overpronate or oversupinate. An expert may perform a test of the way you stand and walk to see if you step in a way that puts more stress on the plantar fascia. You can try to change the way you walk and stand according to the experts recommendation as part of your treatment. Exercise the foot muscles to make the muscles stronger. One good exercise is grabbing and lifting up a towel or marbles using your toes. You can do the same exercise without a towel as though you are grasping something with the toes of each foot. Another good exercise is walking as tall as you can on your toes and on the balls of your feet. Stretching the plantar fascia and the calf muscles several times a day is an important part of the treatment and prevention. There are many stretching exercises for the plantar fascia and the calf muscles that you can find. Long term treatment should not focus in reduction of pain and inflammation alone. This is a passive short term relief treatment. Stretching exercises results are longer and more flexible foot movement which can prevent another fascia injury. Plantar fasciitis taping technique can assist the foot getting rest and help it from getting injured again. Athletic tape is applied in strips on the skin on the bottom of the foot supporting the plantar fascia. The tape restricts the movement of the foot so the fascia can not be injured again. Taping supports the foot by putting the tired foot muscles and tendons in a physiologically more relaxed position. A night splint is worn during sleep. It holds the calf muscles and plantar fascia in a stretched position. Night splint treatment lets the fascia heal in a stretched position so it will not get bruised again when waking up and stretching it again while walking. Orthotics or inserts that your doctor may prescribe or custom made arch supports (orthotics) plantar fascia orthotic. help to distribute the pressure on your feet more evenly. Arch Support gives a little raise to the arch assisting the plantar fascia. There are also over-the-counter inserts that are used for arch support and heel cushioning. Heel cups and cradles provide extra comfort and cushion the heel. They reduce shock placed on the foot during everyday activities like Shock absorbers. Anti-inflammatory or Pain medication that a clinician may recommend can be a plantar fasciitis treatment. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce swelling and relieve pain. However, these medications may have many side effects and it is important to consider the potential risks and benefits. These medications may relieve the pain and inflammation but will not cure the fascia. Lose weight as much as you can. Extra weight puts more stress on your plantar fascia. Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP therapy, is a procedure which involves an injection of special plasma, made out of the patients own blood, to the injured area. Platelets are special blood components that have a major role in the body ability to heal itself. Blood is taken from the patient and separated into its components. The platelet rich part of the blood is than taken and injected into the injured area - in our case to the bottom of the foot. The special plasma helps the foot recovery process. The procedure is actually maximizing the body's natural healing response of the treated area. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is a procedure which sound waves are targeted at the area of heel pain to encourage healing. It is mostly used for chronic plantar fasciitis which does not respond to conservative treatments. This procedure has many possible side effects like bruising, swelling, pain or numbness and has not proved to be consistently effective. Corticosteroid injection (or cortisone shots) into the painful area may provide relief in severe cases. This kind of medication is very efficient in inflammation reduction. Corticosteroid injections usually provide short-term relief from plantar fasciitis pain. Symptom relief from the corticosteroid injection lasts for 3 to 6 weeks, but the effect often deteriorates and symptoms return. Botox Injections (botulinum toxin) are used to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis, assist foot function recovery and the ability to walk better. Although the use of Botox injections as heel pain treatment is relatively new, there are a number of medical studies that show significant good results.

Heel Pain




Surgical Treatment

The most common surgical procedure for plantar fasciitis is plantar fascia release. It involves surgical removal of a part from the plantar fascia ligament which will relieve the inflammation and reduce the tension. Plantar fascia release is either an open surgery or endoscopic surgery (insertion of special surgical instruments through small incisions). While both methods are performed under local anesthesia the open procedure may take more time to recover. Other surgical procedures can be used as well but they are rarely an option. Complications of plantar fasciitis surgery are rare but they are not impossible. All types of plantar fasciitis surgery pose a risk of infection, nerve damage, and anesthesia related complications including systemic toxicity, and persistence or worsening of heel pain.

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