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Understanding Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis

You probably don’t think about your heels very often. But if you develop pain in one of your heels, you may find it’s all you can think about! Chronic heel pain makes it difficult to do the things you need to do and enjoy doing. It can make it difficult to hobble from your bed to the bathroom in the morning. 

At Orthocenter, our experts see patients with chronic heel pain regularly. Often it’s a condition called plantar fasciitis. Understanding the cause of plantar fasciitis is the first step in easing your pain, and there are nonsurgical and surgical treatments available. 

An amazing shock absorber

Your plantar fascia is a thick ligament that runs from the base of your toes to your heel. This piece of tissue stretches and contracts with each step you take. It helps your foot flex as you walk, and provides shock absorption. 

Tears, irritation, and pain

Over time, your plantar fascia can develop microtears, which become irritated and inflamed. It’s known as plantar fasciitis. 

When your foot is at rest, and the plantar fascia is relaxed, you probably don’t feel pain. But when you stand or walk, you may feel pain. Most often, people with plantar fasciitis experience pain in their heels. Some describe it as similar to a stone bruise. 

The pain is the result of those microtears becoming inflamed, as your body tries to repair them. However, since the tears are under stress every time you stand or walk, there’s no time for your body’s natural healing process to take place. 

Conditions that worsen the pain

Three specific factors make it more likely you’ll have plantar fasciitis. Those are your age, your weight, and your habits. 

Plantar fasciitis is technically classified as an overuse injury. If you use your plantar fascia too much, pain develops. The older you are, the more you’ve used your plantar fascia, and the more likely it is you’ll have plantar fasciitis. 

If you’re overweight or obese, your feet are carrying more weight than they would if your weight were lower. The extra stress caused by the extra pounds can lead to plantar fasciitis. 

Do you stand for many hours a day? Some jobs make it more likely you’ll get plantar fasciitis. For example, factory workers, cosmetologists, teachers, and many others in occupations that require standing on hard surfaces for many hours have a greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis. 

Easing the pain

There are several things you can do to ease the pain of plantar fasciitis. Making sure your shoes fit properly and provide enough support are good places to start. 

Since plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury, rest is important. Stretch your feet, as well. You may want to roll a tennis ball under your foot while you’re watching TV or working at your desk. 

Rolling a frozen water bottle under your foot may also lessen the pain. Roll it for five minutes, or apply an ice pack for about 15 minutes. Do this three times a day, or immediately following strenuous activity. 

A brace or splint at night to keep your foot in a good position may also be a good solution. If you’ve tried the approaches above and you still have pain, consider booking an appointment at Orthocenter. Our experts provide an evaluation to help you understand your specific situation. 

We have four locations, in Red Bank, Morganville, Marlboro Township, and Holmdel, New Jersey. Call the location most convenient for you to book your appointment, and we’ll work on alleviating your foot pain. You can also send a message to our team here on our website.

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