Conservative Options for Heel Pain

We know people don’t always want to come and see a professional for their heel pain. In fact, you might have been googling at-home treatments for heel pain just now and came across this page instead.

Don’t worry; we won’t judge. The truth is that you are far from alone.

Heel pain is one of those types of maladies some feel they “deserve,” whether due to the demands of their daily lives or the types of shoes they wear.

Some have even tried one or two remedies, whether of the homemade variety or bought in a store. Many times, these don’t work—or don’t work well enough—and it’s easy to resign oneself to thinking that nothing will do the trick.

And then there’s the big fear: “If I go to a podiatrist, they might suggest… THE S-WORD.”

(We’re talking about surgery.)

Heel pain treatment

There are a few truths to cut through all the thinking here:

  1. Heel pain is never “part of life.” Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong, so enduring any type of pain without attempting to address the problem is foolish.
  2. The vast majority of heel pain can be treated professionally. The reason many at-home remedies don’t work is that they are not getting to the root cause of the pain.
  3. As much as you would prefer not to undergo surgery for your heel pain, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a podiatrist who would recommend surgery as the first course of action!

Surgery is an option that should only be reserved for when nothing else works. Fortunately, when it comes to heel pain, there are a good number of conservative options that do.

Knowing the Enemy

To even begin treating heel pain, you must determine its cause. Heel pain is not just “one thing” with one answer. It can stem from a variety of causes, and the proper course of treatment can alter depending on the reasons.

Two main causes of heel pain are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Each involves the aggravation and inflammation of a soft tissue in the area of the heel.

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the underside of the foot. It helps form our arch and distributes energy as we move. Pain from plantar fasciitis is often at its worst first thing in the morning or after long periods of inactivity.

The Achilles tendon connects the muscles in our calf to the back of our heel bone. Pain from Achilles tendinitis tends to be felt more toward the back of the heel.

There are other potential causes of heel pain, including arthritis, nerve injuries, and stress fractures. But even identifying the condition is usually not quite enough. You also need to identify the factors behind the condition.

For example, are you a runner who has been overdoing it, not giving your feet enough time to rest and recover? Do you have an abnormality in your foot structure that affects the way you walk and where weight is being distributed across your feet? We need to know these factors in order to make the best recommendations.

What does this mean for you? In addition to examining your foot, we will want to know more about your medical history, what physical activities you engage in, and what shoes you wear. In fact, bringing in a pair of everyday shoes you have worn for a considerable amount of time is a big help!

Heel pain

Treating Heel Pain Without Surgery

Depending on the condition causing your pain and the reasons behind it, we can recommend a number of different conservative treatments to find you the relief you deserve.

Sometimes, the most traditional methods may be best. Simple rest, icing, and stretching might be enough to allow your condition to heal on its own.

It is a different case if an abnormality in your foot shape or gait is causing the problem, though. These types of conditions don’t “heal” as much as they need continual support. Custom-made orthotics are designed to specifically address areas of the foot that need support, cushioning, or redistribution of weight. The abnormality itself is not corrected, but orthotics are a success if they consistently relieve the pain.

Other advanced forms of therapy for accelerating the healing of soft tissue injuries include:

  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy – Blood is drawn from the patient, spun in a centrifuge to concentrate the platelets, and injected back into the site of the injury to accelerate repairs and pain relief in that area.
  • Multiwave Locked System (MLS) Laser Therapy – Specific frequencies of light energy are sent into the site of an injury to stimulate cells’ repair processes and encourage greater blood flow to the area.
  • Stem Cell Therapy – Stem cell injections can be particularly effective at promoting healing in cases of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.

In addition to those forms of treatment, don’t neglect the potential of lifestyle changes in aiding relief and preventing future injury. From changes to your workout routine to wearing shoes that are much more accommodating to your foot type, little changes can make a big difference!

Remember that surgery will only ever be considered if the above forms of treatment don’t (or obviously would not) work. If surgery is an option, we will be sure to discuss the options fully with you, pros and cons, so you can make the best-informed decision for you.

Don’t Let Your Heels Hurt Any Longer

Heel pain is never normal, and you should never allow yourself to endure it for any longer than you have to. When you find relief for your discomfort, you’ll be surprised at how much more energy and motivation you have in the day.

Call North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute at (512) 593-2949 to schedule an appointment at our offices in Cedar Park or Round Rock.

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