Heel Pain? It’s Probably Not a Heel Spur
Complain once about that pain at the back of your foot and everyone from your grandmother to your workout buddy will have a diagnosis. Sooner or later your helpful friends and relatives will tell you that you’ve got a heel spur.
Actually, probably not.
Foot pain is always worth taking seriously but it has many causes and only a qualified doctor can identify it for sure. By the same token, heel spurs—calcium deposits near the heel bone–are surprisingly common but only about half of them cause pain. So maybe your pain is caused by a heel spur but keep an open mind.
So if it’s not a heel spur, what’s going on? Here are some possibilities:
- Repetitive overuse. People who walk heavily on their feet, run long distances or carry extra weight are susceptible to this leading cause of heel pain. A tight Achilles tendon can also be the source of inflammation and discomfort.
- Impact injuries. Impact injuries cause deep bruises either to the fat pad or ball of the foot that makes your foot feel like walking on a pebble—very uncomfortable. Another type of impact injury is heel bone fractures that can come from a fall from a significant height or new, rigorous or repetitive overuse.
- Running, jumping, or other strenuous activities. Any one of these can be the cause of discomfort and inflammation in the ball of the foot.
- Wearing high heels. The most commonly found condition in women who wear high heels is Morton’s Neuroma, which is a thickening of tissue around the nerve between the bases of the toes. It can lead to foot pain and sensations of pain numbness in the ball of your foot.
- Arch pain. This is most often from plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects the heel to the ball of your foot. You’ll usually notice the pain more first thing in the morning or when you start to walk after sitting for long periods. This is called start-up pain.
- Other assorted causes. Arthritis causes inflammation and swelling which can often cause pain. It typically affects the middle part of the foot and the big toe joint. But, bunions, hammertoe, claw toe, turf toe, and ingrown toenails can also be the culprits.
- And of course, it might be a heel spur but only an x-ray examination will tell you for sure, and even if it is a heel spur it may be accompanied by another condition, most often plantar fasciitis.
Treatments are similar for many kinds of foot pain and usually start with common-sense measures: better-fitting shoes, orthotic inserts, stretching exercises, over-the-counter pain-relievers; if those aren’t enough you may need to visit your podiatrist for an individual treatment plan.
To make an appointment with one of our podiatrists for help with your heel pain, please call 336-379-6990 or click here to request an appointment.
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