Heel pain is nothing to scoff about. In fact, an estimated 36% of Americans suffer from heel pain. It is typically pinpointed at the back of the heel. And it differs from a sore heel because a sore heel will get better on its own without surgery. For most, heel pain is not a symptom of a serious condition, but there are many who not only suffer from pain, but it interferes with normal everyday activities.
For every mile we walk, we are putting 60 tons of stress on our feet. While our feet are built for carrying the load of our body, plus a little extra, we often push them to their structural limits. The damage can be compounded with harsh activities like sports on hard surfaces, wearing shoes that irritate or don’t fit well, and long hours on your feet. A little rest will often take care of the pain, but overuse, or ignoring pain will only make it get worse. It will most likely become a chronic condition, leading to more problems, and more pain.
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The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis (with pain located at the bottom of the foot), or Achilles tendinitis (with pain at the back of the heel). However, many causes of heel pain are worth knowing about and monitoring.
Achilles tendinitisresults from overuse of the Achilles tendon. It’s most common in people who play sports. It can cause tenderness and stiffness. If you get a tear, it often requires surgery.
Bursitis is an inflammation of the joint. It can happen in any joint, but when it occurs in the foot, it can cause debilitating pain. It’s typically caused by repetitive motion, and while it will go away on its own, flare-ups can occur at any time.
Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone. While it’s a bit more rare than other foot conditions, it is painful and can lead to much more serious issues, such as foot ulcers and larger scale infections. It’s typically caused by infections in the bloodstream that settle in the foot.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. There’s a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, which can become inflamed. Those at risk are runners and people who may be overweight, particularly if they wear shoes that don’t have enough support.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also called inflammatory joint disease. For some people, this form of arthritis can cause inflammation across the body systems, such as in organs, tissues, and blood vessels. The inflammation can cause damage throughout the body, and while there’s no cure, there are medications that can help you manage the disease.
Heel pain isn’t like other pain. It can reduce a person’s ability to function. At times, the pain can continue even when you're not putting weight on your feet, But even if it is limited to standing and walking, that can affect nearly every daily activity. Check out Part Two to learn more about when to see a physician and how to apply self-care for your feet.