Ottawa Foot Practice Specializes In Heel Pain Treatment
The Many Sources Of Heel And Foot Pain
A problem with support creates a problem with a whole structure. Imagine a tower held up by columns and support beams. If the tower has more weight than the columns can handle, or something in the foundation cracks, you put more stress on the supports—and weaken the whole tower. This is what can happen to you with heel and foot pain. These bones are crucial supporting structures in your lower limbs. When they are compromised, you lose strength and mobility.
Understanding Your Feet and Heels
Your heel bone (calcaneus) carries a significant amount of body weight and helps you stand. It also makes normal movement, like walking, possible. A number of tendons and ligaments that move and support the whole foot are running around or attached to the calcaneus. It is the part of your foot that strikes the ground when you land a foot step. It also forms a joint with the ankle bones to allow your limb to rotate side to side, so you can adjust to uneven surfaces. Without this bone, normal mobility would be impossible—so heel pain can limit your activities as well as cause you discomfort.
The forefoot contains its own sets of nerves, bones, tendons, ligaments, articulations and muscles that contribute to the movement of the toes, allowing you to push off and propel yourself forward as you walk. Much of our balance is also focused in this area. Pain and deformities that develop here can shift our biomechanics and cause additional pain up the rest of the body.
Why Your Heels or Feet Hurt?
“Heel pain” or “foot pain” are general terms that encompass many different conditions. Anything that causes pain in these locations foot can fit into this category of foot problems. Some specific issues can cause discomfort, including:
Plantar Fasciitis – This is the most common source of heel pain in adults. It’s a problem with micro-tears, tightening, swelling, and irritation in a band of tissue, called the plantar fascia or ligament, that connects to the bottom of your heel down to your toes.
Achilles Tendinitis – The Achilles is the biggest tendon in your body. It pulls on the back of your heel to make walking possible. It can get stiff or overloaded and pull painfully on the back of the foot.
Haglund’s Deformity – Sometimes pressure and friction on the back of the foot can create problems. Haglund’s deformity is a bony bump that develops when you wear stiff-backed shoes.
Bursitis – A bursa is a fluid sac that helps protect moving parts from friction. You have one between your Achilles tendon and your heel bone. Abnormal tension and repetitive friction of the tendon squeezed between the shoe counter and the back of your heel bone can cause a bursa to become sore, red, swollen and inflamed.
Arthritis – Grinding or wear-and-tear between the bones of any joint create inflammation and stiffening. This could also be caused by gout or an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. More than 150 types of arthritis exist. Osteoarthritis, due to long-standing foot misalignment forcing the weight bearing joints out-of-alignment, is the most prevalent form of arthritis.
Fractures – Sudden, hard impacts can actually break bones, causing immediate pain, sudden and persistent swelling and weakness. However, repetitive foot strikes from running or jumping can create stress fractures as well. Either way, a break in the calcaneus is especially painful and significantly weakens your foot.
Sesamoiditis – Tiny bones called sesamoids are located in the underside of the forefoot. When the tendons surrounding these bones become inflamed, it can cause pain in the ball of the foot.
Capsulitis – The ligaments that form a “capsule” around a joint become inflammed and painful. This commonly happens with the second toe.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome – When the tibial nerve that travels along the inner leg becomes compressed inside the tunnel that protects it, it can cause radiating pain throughout the foot and swelling in the heel.
Hallux Limitus – Stiffness and gradual loss of motion can occur in the big toe, gradually growing worse over time. If not treated, the toe can become fully rigid.
Hammertoes – Cramped toes can sometimes become fixed in a bent position. This can make walking around or wearing some footwear more difficult.
Nerve Issues – A nerve compression like tarsal tunnel syndrome, nerve damage from peripheral neuropathy, or a thickening of the nerves from Morton’s neuroma can cause pain that radiates into the heel or forefoot.
Long-Lasting Solutions to Your Foot, Toenail and Ankle Problems
Treating Painful Heels and Finding Foot Relief
No matter what is causing your discomfort, pain in the foot or heel is usually a progressive problem that gets worse the longer it goes untreated. You can’t count on it resolving on its own. Treatments can range from changing a barefoot lifestyle toward using good, supportive shoes on a full-time basis, to stretches and exercises.
You may need to wear custom-made orthotic devices to compensate biomechanical issues. Pain laser treatment protocols, shockwave therapy, cryoanalgesia, or cortisone injections with foot taping may also be valuable options, depending on your specific foot condition(s).
To know how to treat your feet, you need an accurate diagnosis. Our team at Ottawa Foot Practice will use a variety of tests to diagnose your problem. Then we will work with you to determine the best treatment that will correct it and alleviate your discomfort. Don’t wait until you’re limping to seek help. Contact our office in Ottawa, ON, by calling (613) 595-9700 to make an appointment.