Heel Pain

Heel pain or Plantar Fasciitis

More than ten million Americans suffer from heel pain.  Most people notice it when they first get out of bed in the morning or after sitting for a while.  The pain is intense on the first step but lessens as you walk a bit. If that sounds familiar, you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of heel pain.

When your feet aren’t working properly, it can create abnormal stresses in your heel.  This can lead to plantar fasciitis. That’s a condition where the band of tissue (plantar fascia) that supports your arch and connects your heel bone to your toes becomes inflamed and tight.

There are several treatment options, but the best chance for a speedy recovery happens when you get help when the pain first occurs.  Waiting more than a few weeks to see if it gets better on its own runs the risk of it turning it from an inflammatory condition into a degenerative condition.  Recognizing the difference is helpful in treating the problem.

Plantar fasciitis starts as an inflammatory condition.  Within the first few weeks of feeling the pain, treatment is aimed at reducing the inflammation and relieving the abnormal stresses on the soft tissues in the heel.  Physical therapy, ice, stretching and orthotics to control the biomechanical imbalances if they are present resolve the problem about 85% of the time.  

After two or three months, the condition becomes degenerative. Prolonged wear and tear can cause tissue breakdown. The body then tries to heal itself. Scar tissue forms and there is less blood supply causing the plantar fascia to become thickened and painful. When this change happens, anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or cortisone are not effective because inflammation is no longer the target. In the past, surgery was the next option. While the success rate is high, there are risks associated with it, as with any surgery.

Regenerative medicine is the latest breakthrough in treating heel pain. Cold laser therapy and growth factor or amnio-derived fluid injections are two options now available. Both are aimed at stimulating the body to heal in a more controlled manner.