Heel pain is a very common problem that can be surprisingly debilitating. There are numerous causes, but the most common is a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is strong connective tissue that helps to hold the structures of the foot in place. If it gets pulled away from the heel bone, inflammation occurs and that’s when you know there’s a problem. Pain is at it’s worse when you first get up in the morning, or if you’ve been sitting for a while, and then eventually eases once you get moving.
An old name for plantar fasciitis was ‘Policeman’s heel’ from the days when Bobbies pounded the streets in heavy shoes and it is that kind of activity that can produce the symptoms. It can also be down to rapid weight-gain (such as in pregnancy) or a sudden increase in activity levels. You will be particularly prone to developing this problem if you have a tight Achilles’ tendon, or hamstrings. The pain might come on suddenly, but symptoms can take many months to resolve without intervention. This is because we try to carry on as normal, particularly once the pain has eased, but the tissue never has enough time to fully recover.
If you are suffering then there are several things you can do yourself to help ease symptoms. Firstly, the regular application of ice to the tender spot on your heel will help reduce the inflammation and so ease the pain. Gentle stretching of the sole whilst still in bed can alleviate the pain felt when your foot touches the floor – loop a belt or scarf over the ball of the foot and ease the toes towards you so that you feel the stretch in the sole, calf and hamstrings.
Sometimes steroid injections are prescribed for heel pain, but this only masks the symptoms. A consultation with a Podiatrist will address the causes of the pain. A treatment plan is likely to include a combination of strapping, massage, stretching and strengthening exercises and maybe orthotics. The sooner you receive help the sooner the inflammation will start to resolve. Before you know it, you will be jumping out of bed in the mornings, with a smile rather than a grimace!