The heels are subjected to considerable strain and repeated force during any given day, receiving much of the brunt of forces from walking, running, and even standing. A lot of heel pain is caused by inflammation in the fibrous band of tissue called the plantar fascia that extends from the heel across the sole to the ball of the foot – the fleshy area below the toes. When the plantar fascia becomes irritated and inflamed, usually a result of repeated impact and wear and tear linked to aging, it can cause significant pain when moving after a period of being stationary. Other common causes of heel pain include:
People who are overweight and those who spend long periods of time standing are also more likely to experience heel pain. Heel pain treatment begins with a careful evaluation of the heel, foot, and ankle, sometimes accompanied by diagnostic imaging.
In most cases, plantar fasciitis responds to gentle stretching exercises using special splints to help promote circulation and reduce stiffness and inflammation. Injections of corticosteroids can be especially helpful in relieving pain as well as inflammation. Custom orthotics can also be used to provide support for the arch and midfoot, relieving pressure and strain on the plantar fascia. In very few cases, surgery may be needed to remove heel spurs that can exacerbate symptoms or to reposition the plantar fascia.
Bursa are small, fluid-filled sacs located near some joints that help promote pain-free movement by reducing friction in the joint. Sometimes, bursa can become irritated and inflamed, resulting in pain and burning sensations that are especially pronounced with movement. Heel bursitis occurs when the bursa near the heel becomes inflamed, usually as a result of repetitive movements or long periods of standing. Corticosteroid injections can be useful in reducing pain and inflammation so normal and pain-free movement is restored.
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