Heel pain isn’t trivial. It makes up about 15% of all foot problems, affecting some 2 million people every year. The pain can range from mild to debilitating, and there are many potential causes.
The most common cause, though, is plantar fasciitis. And while it can cause some serious pain and discomfort, there are a number of things you can do to manage the condition at home.
Here at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic in Spring, Texas, Dr. Eric Blanson and our team treat all manner of foot conditions, including heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
While it’s important to come in and get an accurate diagnosis for your pain, if it turns out to be plantar fasciitis, we may recommend at-home treatments to start. Here’s what you should know.
Plantar fasciitis 101
You may not have heard of your plantar fascia before this, but it’s an important component of your feet.
The plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes along the bottom of your foot. It acts as a shock absorber and offers support for your arches, which are critical for walking, running, and jumping.
When you strain the tissue, possibly by wearing improper running shoes, it creates small tears. These lead to inflammation and pain, especially in the heel region.
The pain is usually worse when you get out of bed in the morning since the tissue tightens overnight; stretching and relaxing it can help relieve your symptoms. However, if your condition is bad enough, the tissue may not stretch, leading to pain that lasts all day.
Plantar fasciitis can also cause heel spurs, bony growths on the heel bone. It’s your body’s way of trying to strengthen the area. Unfortunately, though, these spurs only add to your pain.
Who is at risk for plantar fasciitis?
You’re at increased risk for plantar fasciitis and heel pain if you:
- Are a woman
- Are overweight, obese, or pregnant
- Are 40-70 years old
- Have high arches or flat feet
- Have tight Achilles tendons
- Hyperpronate (ankle rotates inward when you walk)
- Are active in sports such as running or ballet
- Spend a lot of time on your feet
- Frequently stand on hard surfaces
- Often wear high heels
- Wear shoes without arch support or with thin soles
If you fail to treat the underlying condition, complications include not just heel pain, but also knee, hip, foot, and/or back problems.
Managing plantar fasciitis at home
There are many things you can do to manage plantar fasciitis at home, but here are three good ones.
1. Practice self-care
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your aching feet is to give them a rest. Stop running or jumping for a couple of weeks, repeatedly icing the sore tissue and using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., acetaminophen, ibuprofen) to manage the pain.
2. Wear supportive shoes and orthotics
Proper foot support is a must, and that begins with the shoes you wear. Look for shoes that have thick soles and extra cushioning or soft heel pads at the back of your foot. Every time your heel hits the ground as you walk or run, you place a significant amount of tension on the fascia.
A cushioned shoe or an orthotic (shoe insert) reduces the tension and prevents tears from forming.
In addition, you need to replace your footwear regularly to ensure maximum support. As a general rule, runners should replace their shoes every 400–500 miles, while non-runners should replace them about every six months, depending on how often you wear them.
3. Consider night splints
Most people sleep with their feet pointed down, which relaxes the plantar fascia during the night and causes early morning pain when you suddenly stand up and stretch it. Night splints work by stretching your foot arches and calves while you sleep.
They come in hard and soft varieties, and are designed to be used for 1-3 months. They generally work best for people who’ve had plantar fasciitis pain and stiffness for at least six months.
A night splint can be difficult to sleep with, but it’s an effective solution, and you don’t need to wear it once the pain is gone.
Are you suffering from heel pain that makes even walking a chore? PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic is the best place to find out whether plantar fasciitis is the cause. Give us a call at 832-224-5604 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Blanson, or book online with us today.