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Symptoms, Diagnosis & Causes Of Heel Pain

Symptoms, Diagnosis & Causes Of Heel Pain

Apria Editorial |

The heel is cushioned by fatty tissue that resists deformation under the weight and motion of the foot. The discomfort can be excruciating and even debilitating. Most cases of heel discomfort can be traced back to excessive use of the foot.

Although nonsurgical therapies are effective for most cases of heel pain, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery are all possible without surgery.

Are you suffering from heel pain? We explore the common symptoms, causes, prevention methods, treatment solutions and more in the linked article.

Heel pain and discomfort affect almost 2 million Americans of all ages and genders each year. It can be caused by several complications, which can develop either behind or under the heel. Therefore, to alleviate your heel pain effectively, it is essential first to determine the primary reason you are experiencing it.

Heel discomfort may be brought on by doing anything that causes excessive strain on the foot. Your foot's form and the way you walk are also contributing factors. Pain in the heel might hinder one's ability to walk and perform routine tasks. Although nonsurgical therapies are effective for most cases of heel pain, treatment, rehabilitation, and recovery are all possible without surgery.

Are you suffering from heel pain? In this in-depth guide by ApriaHome, we explore the common symptoms, causes, prevention methods, treatment solutions and more.

What Is Heel Pain?

The heel is cushioned by fatty tissue that resists deformation under the weight and motion of the foot. Pain in the heel is a common complaint, and the underlying cause is seldom severe. However, the discomfort can be excruciating and even debilitating. Most cases of heel discomfort can be traced back to excessive use of the foot.

Symptoms often include excruciating pain whenever the afflicted heel is used or bears weight. Pain in the heel is usually a slow onset that steadily worsens. Typically, only one heel is affected; however, over a third of patients report feeling pain in both heels.

In most cases, the discomfort is at its worst first thing in the morning or after a period of inactivity. Standing up and moving around sometimes help ease the discomfort, but it generally returns after prolonged standing or walking.

Reducing weight on the painful heel might cause some individuals to walk awkwardly or with a limp.

How Is Heel Pain Diagnosed?

Several conditions, both localized and systemic, may cause heel discomfort. Identifying the physical cause of the heel discomfort requires a thorough history and physical examination of the lower limbs.

Your doctor will conduct a complete physical and symptom assessment. Arthritis, bone fractures, bone alignment, and joint deterioration may all be detected with the use of x-rays.

On rare occasions, imaging studies like an MRI or ultrasound may be required. These are used to identify issues with soft tissues that are not visible on an x-ray.

What Causes Heel Pain?

Plantar fasciitis (bottom of the foot) and Achilles tendinitis (back of the heel) are the most common reasons for heel pain. Various conditions cause heel pain, but they can all be traced back to the following:

  • An irregular posture when walking (gait), such as inwardly-rolled feet
  • Obesity
  • Poorly sized / ill-fitting footwear
  • Exercises involving prolonged standing, running or leaping
  • Heel pain and injuries such as stress fractures
  • Exercising on hard or uneven surfaces
  • Inflammation of a bursa ‒ tiny sacs that hold fluid to lubricate moving components, such as joints and muscles, also known as bursitis
  • Nerve enlargement, also known as neuroma
  • Medical conditions like diabetes and arthritis

Common Causes & Symptoms Of Pain Beneath The Heel

Bone Bruise:

Any type of blunt force or trauma to bone results in a bruise, which is less severe than a bone fracture.

A bruise is not only a black and blue discoloration on the skin; it can also occur in the muscle and bones and arise as a cause of heel pain. This develops when a tiny blood artery is broken after an injury, allowing blood and fluid to seep into the surrounding tissues and blood vessels.

A bone bruise can be caused by any kind of injury sustained during contact sports, car accidents, or falls from great heights. Bruises on the bone are also often the result of twisted injuries, including those that result in sprained joints.

Plantar Fasciitis:

A frequent cause of heel discomfort is plantar fasciitis ‒ the inflammation of the broad band of tissue and tendons that span the bottom of the feet.

The sharp discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis is often experienced with the first steps of the day, usually subsiding as soon as you start moving. However, pain often re-emerges after long periods spent on the feet and flares up after a period of exercise.

Several factors, including footwear, foot anatomy, excessive usage, and the ground surface, might contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis. Heel discomfort is often the first sign of plantar fasciitis; however, surgery is seldom necessary, and the condition can be treated with physiotherapy and at-home treatment solutions.

Heel Spur:

A heel spur is a bony outgrowth that causes pain and forms at the point of attachment between the heel bone and the plantar fascia.

Over time, some patients acquire painful spurs on the heel of their feet. It is only when someone has heel discomfort examined by a medical professional that they discover they have a heel spur. Although surgical excision of a heel spur is an option, non-invasive methods are often initially considered for alleviating the pain and discomfort caused by the condition.

Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are closely related but different disorders. Heel spurs develop when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed and irritated, which often occurs as a result of stress. As a long-term adaptation to stress, your body will increase its bone mass. Eventually, this excess tissue will develop into a painful heel spur.

Common Causes & Symptoms Of Pain Behind The Heel

Achilles Tendinitis:

Inflammation and irritation of the large tendon connecting the heel bone to the calf (the Achilles tendon) is a frequent ailment known as Achilles tendinitis. Although the Achilles tendon is strong enough to survive the impact of running and jumping, it can develop tendinitis from repeated stress and excessive use.

Most cases of Achilles tendinitis are not caused by any particular trauma. It usually develops as a result of the tendon being overworked. Achilles tendinitis presents itself first as a dull aching in the back of the leg or just above the heel after jogging or other physical exercises. Pain may escalate in intervals after strenuous exercise or long periods of activity.

Tenderness or stiffness, particularly first thing in the morning, often occurs and subsides throughout the day with movement.

Age-related structural changes to the Achilles tendon may increase its susceptibility to injury, especially in persons who previously only engaged in sports on the weekends or who have recently increased the frequency or intensity of their running regimens.

Bursitis:

Inflammation of a bursa is known as bursitis. The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act as cushioning and frictionless surfaces to reduce the impact of movement between bodily tissues. The bursae are situated adjacent to the tendons in big joints like the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee.

The pain and discomfort of bursitis often subside quickly. Although it may hinder mobility, it seldom results in physical deformity. Bursitis usually develops from either an injury, overuse, or infection.

Other complications may facilitate the development of bursitides, such as diabetes or thyroid conditions.

Haglund's Deformity:

Those who suffer from Haglund's deformity experience an abnormal bony growth behind the heel. The bony outgrowth irritates the soft tissue close to the Achilles tendon by brushing against the shoes.

Haglund's deformity affects both the soft tissues and the bones of the heel, also known as pump bumps or retrocalcaneal bursitis. In most cases, A painful swelling develops at the back of the heel bone, aggravated by wearing shoes and walking.

In mild instances, a change in footwear, Achilles heel pads, or orthotics might alleviate the pain caused by the inflammation and protrusion of the bone at the back of the heel. In more severe cases, surgery or a cast might be prescribed.

Sever's Disease (calcaneal apophysitis):

Calcaneal apophysitis, or Sever's disease, is a frequent cause of heel discomfort in active children and adolescents, commonly caused by repetitive stress on the heel. This condition causes calcaneus (heel) growth plate inflammation.

When bones, muscles, tendons, and other components are undergoing rapid development, such as during a growth spurt, this condition is more likely to occur.

There is a higher incidence of this disorder among young athletes, particularly those who engage in running and jumping sports, those who are physically active, and wearing high heels.

Pain from Sever's disease is often managed with rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and a footwear change. Stress on the heel may also be reduced by stretching the calf muscles.

When Should I Be Concerned About Heel Pain?

Occasionally, heel pain may be so severe that it prevents a patient from walking. Forgoing treatment can make heel pain worse. A medical professional or podiatrist will be an expert in relieving heel pain medically and can help you get back on your feet. Some cases of heel pain may be resolved without medical attention, but the following symptoms are cause for concern.

  • Extreme discomfort and swelling in the area around your heel.
  • Difficulty putting weight on one foot, walking correctly or bending the foot downward.
  • Heel discomfort accompanied by a high temperature, tingling, or numbness in the heel.
  • Severe pain immediately following an injury.
  • Constant discomfort in the heel, even while at rest.
  • When rest, ice, and other at-home therapies fail to alleviate heel pain, and it persists for more than a few weeks.

How To Treat Heel Pain?

In most situations, heel discomfort goes away within a year. Unfortunately, dealing with heel discomfort for an extended period is typically uncomfortable and frustrating. Fortunately, various options are available to alleviate your heel pain and accelerate your recuperation. Some examples include:

Rest: Raising the heel, avoiding long distances or long standing periods.

Stretching: Discomfort can be alleviated by stretching the calf muscles regularly.

Pain Management: Symptoms can be treated with pain alleviation, including the application of an ice pack to the injured heel and the administration of pain-relieving anti-inflammatories.

Choose shoes that provide enough support and cushioning. Running shoes are ideal for this purpose, incorporating orthotics for stabilizing the foot further.

Medical Assistance: If the heel pain persists beyond the standard recovery rate, seek medical intervention to return to a full range of motion and activity. A physical examination will be performed, and you will be asked about your symptoms and their onset. For additional help in diagnosing your heel pain, your doctor may order an x-ray. Once the root cause has been determined, treatment can commence.

Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a standard treatment option recommended by doctors. Strengthening the foot's muscles and tendons in this way will help you prevent unnecessary damage. In addition, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications if the pain is severe. Your doctor may also suggest that you wear supportive footwear or mobility aids. In rare circumstances, your doctor may recommend surgical correction; however, heel surgery is associated with a lengthy recovery period.

How To Prevent Heel Pain

Although every occurrence of heel pain can't be avoided, several simple measures can be taken to protect your heels and prevent heel pain.

  • Invest in a good pair of fitting, supportive shoes; wearing proper footwear for exercise is essential.
  • Stretch properly before exercise.
  • Pace yourself while engaging in physical activity; focus on form rather than exertion.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet and healthy weight.
  • Listen to your body; rest fatigued muscles when you experience discomfort.

Heel Pain FAQ

How to tape for heel pain?

Taping, sometimes known as strapping, is a standard method of alleviating heel pain caused by various conditions. Always wash your feet thoroughly before taping them. The tape provides support for heel pain because it reduces tension in the muscles and tissues of the foot.

  • Cover the ball of your foot with tape and trim off any excess.
  • Wrap a piece of tape around your heel and join the two ends to the tape around the ball of the foot.
  • Wrap the second strip around the back of the heel and cross the two ends over the bottom of your foot. Attach both ends to the bottom foot to resemble an X. To provide the greatest stability, you wrap three times.
  • Measure the breadth of your foot and cut several strips of tape to fit. Set them horizontally over the foot's sole, covering the X and leaving no skin exposed except for the toes.
  • Ensure a smooth fit of the tape around your foot by pressing down on it.
  • Peel off the tape every night before bed.

What causes heel pain in the morning?

A frequent sign for many types of heel discomfort is a pain that shoots or stabs into one or both heels. This happens most often when getting out of bed in the morning due to the muscle and tissues not being used overnight,

Is walking good for heel pain?

The pain usually subsides with a little bit of walking after the tendon and tissue have had time to warm up. Movement after inactivity, whether standing or sitting, may cause the same symptoms. In some cases, walking may alleviate heel discomfort, but in others, it worsens the condition. Getting plenty of rest is recommended if walking causes you extreme discomfort.

Alleviate Heel Pain & Restore Your Optimum Health & Well-Being

As professionals in medical equipment distribution, we have a deep understanding of the origins, manifestations, and treatments for various conditions causing heel pain. Unfortunately, these common conditions are often misinterpreted, leading to untreated heel discomfort that can become highly debilitating over time. Fortunately, a wide range of treatment options is available. With ApriaHome, you have the finest medical equipment at your fingertips, thanks to our extensive global sourcing efforts.

The ApriaHome Heel Pain Starter Kit


  • For ankle support:

  1. Aircast® A60™ Left Ankle Support Black - Large
  2. Figure 8 Ankle Support Captain America by DonJoy Advantage - XX-Small
  3. DonJoy Spiderman Figure 8 Ankle Suppor

  • For mobility aid:

  1. Hospital Grade Crutches
  2. Hospital Grade Walking Boots

When it comes to heel pain, you don't have to suffer in silence. We have an extensive range of treatment solutions available from the comfort of your own home. Order now and receive free nationwide delivery on all purchases over $99.

Need advice or more information? Our friendly and experienced team is available on call at (800) 780-1508 between 8:00 am - 10:00 pm EST. Get in touch today.

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