When you have heel pain, it usually comes on gradually, with wear-and-tear over time, getting worse unless it’s treated. Experienced podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon Gerald D. Austin, DPM, diagnoses and treats heel pain at his office in San Jose, California. To get relief from your heel pain, call the most convenient office for you or use the online booking tool today.
Heel pain most often results from an injury or chronic condition and affects the bottom or back of your heel. Whatever the diagnosis, the cause often has something to do with overuse or wear-and-tear.
The most common causes of heel pain include:
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It’s an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes and supports the arches of your feet. Inflammation results when there are more stress and tension than the tissue can handle.
Often, plantar fasciitis accompanies heel spurs or bony deposits. Heel spurs themselves do not cause pain in many cases but could contribute to inflammation.
Plantar fasciitis often affects distance runners, especially those who do not alternate running with other forms of exercise, as well as people whose jobs require them to stand for long periods.
A stress fracture is a tiny hairline crack in a bone that results from repetitive stress or overuse. The idea of overuse is relative and depends on the person. Not everyone’s heels can handle the same level of stress, so stress fractures happen when you put much more pressure on your feet than you’re used to or can handle.
Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, which runs from your calf to your heel bone. Achilles tendinitis often affects distance runners who suddenly and drastically increase the intensity or distance of their runs or middle-aged people who only play sports on weekends (“weekend warriors”).
Though plantar fasciitis is the culprit in most cases of heel pain, Dr. Austin makes sure to rule out other conditions, including stress fractures. He examines your foot to locate the pain and asks specific questions about your pain, such as if your foot feels stiff or sensitive in the morning and whether it hurts more after walking.
If your exam doesn’t diagnose plantar fasciitis or another condition such as Achilles tendinitis, Dr. Austin may order an MRI or X-ray to determine the cause.
Treatment for heel pain depends on the condition causing it, but generally, treatment involves both controlling the pain and learning strategies to avoid future injuries.
If Dr. Austin diagnoses you with an inflammatory condition such as plantar fasciitis, he may prescribe pain medication (including injections of steroids), recommend custom orthotics to keep your heel in place, and/or teach you stretches to improve your flexibility.
Dr. Austin can treat stress fractures by fitting you for a walking boot or crutches, so you can get around without putting pressure on your foot as it heels. He develops a plan for returning you to your usual activities and discusses strategies to avoid further stress fractures, including supportive footwear.
He also asks about your exercise routine and may recommend performing more varied forms of exercise that put less repetitive stress on your feet or slowly increasing the intensity of your exercise.
As an experienced foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Austin can perform surgery to correct persistent heel pain if necessary, including surgery to remove the heel spurs that accompany plantar fasciitis.
If heel pain is interfering with your everyday life, call Dr. Austin for expert treatment or schedule an appointment online today.