Heel pain is one of the most common ailments treated in our offices. Part of the reason for its prominence is because there are so many different ways one can experience pain in the heel region, including arthritis, collagen diseases, trauma, overuse, stress fractures, nerve entrapments, and more. But, what we find is that a great majority of the heel pain patients we treat are actually suffering from a condition called “plantar fasciitis,” or heel pain syndrome.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. This band of tissue is called the plantar fascia and it is connected on one end at the heel bone. The pain usually runs along the bottom of the foot and/or along the side of the heel and it is most prevalent in the morning upon waking or when standing up after sitting for a period of time. The reason the pain is so intense after a period of rest is because the plantar fascia becomes tight when the foot is at rest.
If treatment is not administered for plantar fasciitis, the condition can worsen. Over time, the plantar fascia will start to thicken and the patient will eventually be diagnosed with plantar fasciosis. It is important to note that the pain of plantar fasciitis can exist with or without a bone spur. Bone spurs can sometimes develop on the heel bone as a result of the plantar fascia being pulled, but this is not always the case. In fact, many patients often mistake their heel pain for being a bone spur when in truth the pain is a result of stretching and irritation of the plantar fascia.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Heel Pain
In most cases, conservative treatments can prove very beneficial to helping relieve the heel pain that’s attributed to plantar fasciitis. These treatment options include methods used to decrease the pulling and tightness of the plantar fascia, to increase the support of the plantar fascia during weight-bearing processes, and to reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling. The treatment options offered in our office include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Supportive shoes
- Immobilization with a cast
- Weight loss
- Physical therapy
- Night splints
- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections
- Cortisone injections
- Extra corporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT)
- Topaz coblation surgery
- Laser treatments and therapy
In cases where the patient has not responded to conservative treatment techniques, more specialized tests may be required to rule out stress fractures, nerve entrapments, arthritic conditions, and other causes of heel pain. These tests may include MRIs, bone scans, blood tests, nerve conduction studies, and others.
Regardless of the case, your surgeon at Pennsylvania Foot and Ankle Associates will discuss all of the conservative and surgical treatment options available to you so you can make the most informed decision about your treatment plan.