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Heel pain, a common foot condition

What causes heel pain?

Heel pain is a common foot condition that affects people from all ages. Many have suffered this condition at some point of their lives, and good news is that it rarely leads to more severe health complications. However, it does cause trouble with everyday activities, and depending on the situation the pain can be quite severe.

Heel pain is usually experienced as a throbbing sensation on the back and/or bottom of the heel. This pain is often more severe after a long time without standing, like in the morning when we get out of bed, or after a while sitting or lying down. Accordingly, the pain tends to relief after we spend some time walking around.

There are several possible causes for hel pain, and most of them have to do with mechanical stress. In other words, our heels start to ache when we put too much pressure on them, damaging the tissue of our feet. What gets injured first is the soft tissue of the sole, cold fascia; this is the origin of the heel pain's medical term: plantar fasciitis.

Excessive pressure over the plantar fascia causes microscopic tearings that are behind the painful symptoms. If this condition remains untreated, it can worsen and may lead to a calcaneal spur. This complication, also known as heel spur, si a small spike of bone that grows from the heel bone and thrusts the flesh of the foot, thus worsening the pain. If you want to further understand the mechanicals of this condition, watch this heel pain video.

Who can suffer heel pain?

Plantar fasciitis and calcaneal spurs are conditions that can affect people of all ages and genders. Heel pain is also common in children, but in this case it can also be caused by growth issues or small fractures in the heel bone. However, the most common cause is still excess of stress on the feet. Heel pain can affect one foot or both of them.

Although nobody is complete safe from the possibility of suffering heel pain, some underlying conditions and lifestyle choices increase significantly the chances of having plantar fasciitis and/or calcaneal spur. As this condition is caused by physical stress on feet, all those situations that subject them to pressure or strong impact tend to affect the soft tissue of the sole and end up causing heel pain.

One way to stress the feet is to apply too much weight on them, which crushes the structure of the foot arch and squeezes the plantar fascia. Therefore, obesity and overweight are risk factors for heel pain. Carrying too much weight in our daily lives also has this effect.

Another source of stress is the repeated impact of the feet on hard surfaces, as it happens to athletes and sportspeople. Sports like basketball, tennis and handball are among the ones which are worse to feet. Runners also tend to suffer from this sort of sports injuries.

Flat foot is a third common cause of heel pain, because an improper structure of the foot arch doesn't allow the foot to support the weight properly. It becomes overstretched and damaged. 

Treatments

Heel pain rarely requires medical intervention. The tissue that becomes damaged in plantar fasciitis and even heel spur can spontaneously regenerate and heal itself. The best advice in these cases is to let the tissue rest while applying some pain control measures and simple techniques to help strenghten the tissue. The stronger feet are, the better they can support weight and pressure, and so the less likely the pain is to recur.

The first step is to change our routine so we withdraw the pressure from our feet. Moderating or stopping our high impact physical activities until the condition gets better is indispensable for healing. Loosing the excess of weight, if any, will also help with the pain.

There are various home remedies of proven effectivity that you can use to relieve pain while the tissue regenerates. Warm soaking with some herbs and natural products work surprisingly good in these cases. Also, applying ice packs 15 minutes every 6 hours will reduce inflammation and pain. Taking some antiinflamatories can also help in worse cases. Acupressing and acupunture have proven effectiveness, as well as foot massage and simple foot excersises to strenghten the fibers of our soles.

Orthotic insoles are another great help for heel pain. Some of them are specifically designed to cusion the foot and help you step without pain. Also, as they provide support to the feet, they relieve the physicial pressure. Off-the-shelf orthotics are usually enough to improve your condition, but you should see a doctor anyway, just to be sure that you're doing things correctly.

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