Fear the Deer – Not Heel Pain!
The team certainly has had its ups and downs this season, but—at least at the time we’re writing this—our Bucks are on pace to make the NBA playoffs for the second year in a row. Given the number of games remaining, the team could mathematically still (barely) end up as the #2-seed in the East.
Let’s be realistic, though – the #4-seed is probably the highest they could reasonably go (only 3 ½ games behind current #4-seed with a dozen games left in the season).
No matter which playoff seed the team ultimately ends up with, it’s safe to say no other Eastern Conference team wants to match up against Giannis and Co.!
Whereas other teams should “Fear the Deer” once the playoffs start, there is no need for you to fear heel pain – not when you can get professional care here at Wisconsin Foot Center.
Of course, there are many times in life when fear is simply a matter of not understanding something or perhaps not having all the information at hand about a situation. With that in mind, we want you to be familiar with the common problem of heel pain so it’s one you take care of, but don’t fear.
Why is heel pain such a common problem? Well, there are a couple of different factors at play:
Anatomical structure. You have two very important connective tissues—the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia—that are used with remarkable frequency and anchored to the heel bone. The Achilles connects to the back and the plantar fascia to the underside. Depending on which tissue is injured, you can easily develop pain in either the back or bottom of your heel.
Physical force loads. Our feet are structured and perform in such a way we don’t typically realize this, but a foot landing while taking a step sustains up to twice our bodyweight in force – and that’s just while walking. If you jog or run, that number jumps up to four times!
Various causes. If we are being technical, heel pain isn’t actually a problem. Rather, it’s a symptom of a problem. In this case, it could be the symptom of Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, Sever’s disease, bursitis, heel spurs, or heel bone fractures (even though those tend to be rare). That said, the location and type of pain (sharp vs. dull, etc.) will differ based on which condition is present and in need of treatment.
Due to these factors, many people suffer from heel pain. It would be great if this wasn’t the case, but there’s at least some good news in the fact this problem can often be easily resolved with professional treatment.
Even better, when we say “professional treatment” we don’t mean “surgery.” Sure, there are some severe cases that benefit from surgical intervention, but these tend to be rare. More often, we can help you find the relief you need with conservative care.
The first step in getting the help you need is figuring out what is wrong. To that end, some general guidelines for determining the cause of your heel pain include:
- If your pain is in the bottom of your heel and is strongest with first steps in the morning, you likely have plantar fasciitis. This is, by far, the most common form of heel pain for adults. The intense, sharp pain on the bottom of the heel develops following extended periods of rest and inactivity (like after a full night’s sleep).
- If your pain is in the back of your heel and is strongest following physical activity, you likely have Achilles tendinitis. This condition develops when your Achilles tendon becomes inflamed from overuse. The pain will usually be somewhat mild at first and then increase over time (especially during, and immediately following, exercise and physical activities).
- If your pain is in the back of your heel and you are an adolescent, you likely have Sever’s disease. This condition is not actually a “disease.” Instead, it happens when the heel bone reaches physical maturity before the Achilles tendon does. This situation causes the tight tendon to pull on the back of the heel bone.
- If heel pain started following physical trauma (like a car accident or sporting injury), you likely have a calcaneal fracture. This injury is a fairly rare, but it does happen. As with any fracture, you should absolutely come in and see us for an evaluation of the damage and an appropriate treatment plan.
Keep in mind these are only starting points when it comes to diagnosing heel injuries. Our Milwaukee podiatrist office can provide a more comprehensive diagnosis (along with an effective treatment plan!).
A key reason heel pain isn’t something to fear is the fact it’s not an unavoidable situation. In fact, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of this common problem, including:
- Wear proper shoes. Make sure that you have the correct footwear for any physical activity you perform. Even more importantly, they should fit well. Shoes that are too tight or too large cause many problems, some of which will leave you with painful heels. Your shoes should cradle your heels snuggly, have room for toes to wiggle, and offer both cushioning in the heel and support for the arch.
- Ease into activity. Too often, patients experience heel pain after starting new activities at too high a level of intensity or duration. Start at an easy-to-moderate level and increase your efforts by no more than 10% every week.
- Warm up and stretch. Prior to exercise or physical activity, warm up and use dynamic stretching to prepare your body. Give careful attention to your calves, ankles, and feet. Warm up first for a couple of minutes before stretching, as this is proven to be more effective at reducing the risk of injury.
Steps to prevent heel pain can make a big difference, but keep in mind they do not completely eliminate the risk of developing a condition or sustaining an injury. If you are in pain following physical activity, make sure you contact Wisconsin Foot Center and we’ll be happy to help you find the relief you need!
Now, stretching prior to sporting activities or your exercise session is a smart move. Even better is to take just a couple minutes and stretch on a daily basis. This really doesn’t take all that much time and it’s something you can do while watching Netflix or (depending on the stretch) brushing your teeth.
Some simple stretches you can use to reduce your risk of heel pain include the Achilles tendon stretch, plantar fascia stretch, and eccentric heel drop. (You can learn how to do these respective stretches on this blog post.)
Following these preventative measures is a great start, but it’s possible you’re already suffering from heel pain or perhaps you still sustain a sports injury (it is, after all, virtually impossible to eliminate 100% of the injury risk from physical activity). If this is the case, contact us today!
Remember, heel pain is a problem that should not be ignored – but it isn’t something to be feared, either. (Unlike our Milwaukee Bucks!)
Get the professional diagnosis and treatment you need by calling (414) 425-8400 and request your appointment with our Hales Corner office.
"Feel Good Feet: A User's Guide to Foot & Ankle Health"