Here's When to See a Doctor About Heel Pain

Your heels are the unsung heroes of your feet, rarely getting the credit and attention for all the hard work they do. Think about it: Your heels take a lot of pounding day after day. For most people, the heels are the first part of the foot that makes contact with the ground when walking or running. And that means they’re subjected to a lot of repetitive force. Plus, your heels provide the “connection” between your lower leg and your foot, so they get a lot of stress and strain whenever you stretch or flex your calves. Because they take the brunt of so much force and strain, it’s no surprise that heel pain is a common complaint among women and men, especially older people and those who lead very active lives.

Fortunately, even though they take a lot of punishment, heels tend to be pretty resilient, too. Often, heel pain can be treated with a little rest, ice, and over-the-counter medicine to reduce pain and inflammation. But sometimes, the DIY route just won’t cut it, and you need the kind of treatment you can only get from a skilled podiatrist. Here’s how to tell when it’s time to skip the home remedies and call our office for an appointment.

Common causes of heel pain

Heel anatomy is probably a lot more complex than you realize. Most of us think of our heels as little more than the place where the lower leg “bends and blends” into the foot. But your foot plays a lot of critical roles that allow you to walk, run, climb, and perform lots of other activities. 

Some of the most common causes of heel pain are due to everyday wear and tear or repetitive strain from physical activities, like running or jumping. Arthritis becomes more common as we get older, and bursitis is another common cause of discomfort, developing when tiny sacs of fluid around the heel get inflamed and irritated. Often, heel pain is caused by an issue involving another part of your foot or ankle, like plantar fasciitis that involves the sole of your foot or Achilles tendonitis. 

The heel bone is also prone to developing something called a “bone bruise,” typically after a lot of repetitive impact to the heel, but sometimes from running on rocks or other hard surfaces. Fractures and heel spurs are also relatively common. Spurs are bony projections that form on the edges of the heel bone, and when you move your foot, they can rub on tendons, causing a lot of persistent discomfort.

Heel pain treatment: When to see the doctor

When your heels hurt, it can be really tempting to treat those symptoms with some home care, like using ice packs and or gently massaging the area. And in most cases, these measures won’t cause any harm — but if you’ve got persistent heel pain or if your heel pain is caused by an injury or damage to the heel or its surrounding structures, it may not provide lasting relief, either. 

Certainly, if your heel pain is accompanied by swelling, instability in your ankle, sharp pain, fever, or problems with normal movement, or if it follows a fall or other injury, you need to come in for a visit right away. But even if your heel pain isn’t severe, you should still have it evaluated. That’s because your heels play a really important role in even the simplest movements, and letting pain go unchecked can result in your symptoms getting a lot worse over time.

The best way to get quick relief for your pain is to schedule an appointment with Dr. Frazier so you can find out what’s causing it — and then treat it appropriately. During your office visit, your heels will be carefully evaluated and you’ll be asked about your symptoms — what they feel like, when they occur, and similar questions. Dr. Frazier might order imaging studies to rule out fractures or other structural issues. Based on his findings, he’ll be able to determine which options are the most appropriate for relieving pain and restoring normal function in your heel. Depending on your specific condition, treatment options might include physical therapy, medications, splints, corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, custom orthotics, or other options. Your care routine will be tailored to your needs to help ensure the best results.

Don’t delay care for your heel pain

As a top-rated podiatry practice, The Frazier Foot and Ankle Clinic offers truly custom solutions for heel pain, including noninvasive and minimally invasive options aimed at treating the source of your symptoms. If you’re having heel pain, putting off treatment can only make things worse. Take the next step toward feeling better, and book an appointment online today.

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