Heel pain is commonly the result of a condition referred to as plantar fasciitis which is also known as heel spur syndrome. Additional factors can cause heel pain as well including arthritis, nerve irritation, tendonitis, a stress fracture, losing fat in the heel, bursitis, or very occasionally a cyst. To identify the underlying cause, the podiatric physician will assess the foot and ankle thoroughly. Most conditions can be treated with at-home strategies such as stretching, splints, and icing as well as using padding, orthotics, walking casts, certain medications such as anti-inflammatories, and possible injections. Avoiding going barefoot and wearing the appropriate shoes can also help greatly. In extreme cases, surgery may be needed.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition which occurs when the plantar fascia, a strong band of connective tissue which goes from the bottom of the foot to the heel, becomes swollen and aggravated. Pain is usually felt along the underside of the foot and is worse in the morning and following periods of continued sitting. The discomfort and stiffness can seem to go away after the foot is used. However, it comes back after another round of inactivity. Plantar fasciitis can be addressed with gentle stretching exercises and massage to assist in relieving swelling, and increase flexibility and strength in the ligament itself. In some instances, injections of anti-inflammatory medications into the ligament can be prescribed when stretching, and massage does not provide relief.
Bursa is a small fluid-filled sac surrounding some joints. Occasionally, the sac can become swollen, aggravated, or compressed, causing discomfort when the joint is used or when weight is put on it. Gentle stretching in combination with icing and massage are enough to alleviate pain related to bursitis and to mitigate the inflammation and compression problems. In other cases, custom orthotics could have to be prescribed to lessen the pressure on the heel.
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