We may be heading into the holiday season, but something that could dampen even Buddy the Elf’s unflappable holiday spirit is a case of nagging heel pain!
Of course, this is an issue that can be frustrating no matter the time of year. Further, it’s one that tends to be quite common for patients of all ages.
In a majority (but not all) cases of heel pain, the problem develops in response to an overuse injury sustained by one of the two tissues connect to the heel bone – the Achilles tendon or plantar fascia.
Now, you’ve probably heard of your Achilles tendon—it is, after all, the stuff of legend—but perhaps you’re not quite as familiar with a fascia. Well, this is a thin sheath of connective tissue that can either attach, enclose, stabilize, or separate muscles and other organs. In the case of your plantar fascia specifically, we are talking about fibrous tissue that attaches the bottom of the heel bone to the bottom of the forefoot.
These respective connective tissues are both fairly durable, but they aren’t infallible! When subjected to excessive strain or overuse, the tendon and/or fascia can be overstretched and tear. This causes inflammation and pain.
In the case of Achilles tendinitis, the pain will be located in the back of the heel and more intense during physical activity. For plantar fasciitis, the pain is sharp, felt in the bottom of the heel, and strongest with the initial steps following extended periods of rest (especially in the morning following a night’s sleep).
The good news about heel pain is the fact you can take measures to prevent it from happening, including taking just a couple of minutes for some simple stretches, including:
- Achilles Tendon Stretch – Stand approximately a foot and a half in front of a wall with your hands on it. Place your left foot behind the right one so the toes touch the heel. Keeping your back leg straight, bend your front knee until you feel the stretch in your lower left leg. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch legs. Repeat two more times.
- Eccentric Heel Drop - Standing on the edge of a step (with only the toes and ball of foot making contact with the step) and facing the stairs, slowly lower both heels down, hold for 10 seconds, and then raise back up to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Plantar Fascia Stretch – Sit barefoot in a chair and place your foot over your knee. Using the hand on the same side as your foot, gently pull back on your toes until you feel a good stretch along the bottom of your foot. Hold for 10 seconds and then switch feet. Repeat two more times.
Stretching exercises are a great way to start—and may turn out to be all the care you need—but it’s certainly possible that you will require additional treatment. When this is the case, come in for an appointment at either of our Cleveland offices and we will help you find the relief you deserve!