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Heel Pain

Heel pain is a widespread malady, with numerous causes, from conditions that impact the heel bone, such as bruises or stress fractures, to diseases that affect the bones, muscles, and tendons, for example, Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.

The heel bone, known as the calcaneus, resides at the rear of the foot below the ankle. Along with surrounding structures, the heel serves to offer balance and lateral movement to the rear of the foot.

What causes heel pain?

Two common issues of the heel are plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis manifests as tenderness and inflammation of the tissue that comprises the arch of the foot and joins the heel bone to the base of the toes and can be very painful. The throbbing pain is experienced at the bottom of the heel. It occurs after rest and is often felt during the first steps after getting out of bed in the morning or standing from a sitting position. If plantar fasciitis persists, a heel spur can form. This will add severe discomfort to an already painful condition.

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is a tendon that is attached to the back of the heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is the painful inflammation of this tendon. The contracting and biting pain of Achilles tendonitis is felt just above the heel bone. Moderate inflammation around the tendon and general stiffness in the heel and calf often accompany this condition.
Achilles tendonitis generally occurs from overuse or exercising without a proper warm-up. Ill-fitting shoes or arthritis may further lead to Achilles tendonitis.

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When is it Time to See a Doctor?

When symptoms occur and persist or are severe, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Here are some specific symptoms that require a doctor:

• The inability to put pressure on the heel

• Pain occurring while at rest

• Pain exceeding a several days

• Inflammation or discoloration of the back of the foot

• An infection accompanied by fever, redness, and warmth

Most heel ailments can be diagnosed using the patient’s medical history and a physical examination. In some situations, additional tests such as x-rays and other analyses are needed. It is prudent to see a doctor about heel pain as soon as possible. Early detection can mean quicker relief.

Other causes of heel pain:

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures of the foot and heel frequently show up in athletes or long-distance runners who extend their jogging mileage over a short time. Reoccurring pressure on the heel bone may ultimately result in a break. A stress fracture involves pain that increases with movement and lessens with relaxation. In addition to discomfort, swelling and tenderness may occur in the region of the bone break.

Heel Pad Bruise

A heel pad bruise produces intense pain across the base of the heel. It often occurs after trauma to the area. For example, stepping on a rock or exercises such as jogging long distances in shoes that are inadequately cushioned.

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