What Can You Do For A Sore Heel?
Sore heels are one of the most common foot complaints that we hear about at the clinic. Typically, patients complain of pain on the bottom of the heel bone right in the centre or along the inside of the heel (big toe side) and can also extend along the inside of the big arch of the foot. People often compare the pain in their heel like stepping on a nail especially when the take their first steps in the morning. This type of presentation can be the result of plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot) or a heel spur. This condition may also be associated with pain in the Achilles tendon or tightness in the calf muscles.
There was a time when heel spurs were surgically removed. Unfortunately, the pain didn’t improve and the spurs grew back. The good news is that there are other interventions that are less invasive and have excellent outcomes. Many of the treatment strategies are simple and easy to implement as well. I have listed a few treatment options to consider below:
- Foot supports: Custom or off-the-shelf orthotic inserts can be effective by helping to correct the alignment of your foot and ultimately reducing the strain to your plantar fascia. Making sure that you are always wearing supportive footwear at home, at work or when you are on the go is definitely the key to success.
- Ice: Rolling over a bottle of ice especially after a bout of walking or standing for a long period can help to decrease inflammation and alleviate the pain. Best of all it feels good to massage the bottom of your foot with an ice bottle.
- Pain-killers or Anti-Inflammatory Medications: Medications can also be helpful to reduce the pain that you are experiencing. Always talk to your doctor first before taking a new medication.
- Night Splints: These are overnight boots and braces that are designed to stretch the tough connective tissue of the sole (the plantar fascia) and prevent the fascia from getting tight while you sleep.
- Physiotherapy Treatment: In the clinic we have a variety of ‘modalities’ or treatments that we can implement including acupuncture, mild electric current, stretching, massage, laser and ultrasound. A newer technology that is now available at our clinic is a different version of ultrasound called shockwave therapy. The short but painful treatment lasts approximately 5 minutes and has outstanding results. Most people experience noticeable relief after the first treatment and usually only require 3-5 subsequent treatments for complete resolution of symptoms. In addition to these passive treatment options, your physiotherapist may also teach you individualized prescriptive exercises in order to correct your muscle imbalance and improve your overall alignment and biomechanics.
- Cortisone Injections: Physicians will sometimes administer cortisone injections to the area to settle the inflammation. This may give you the relief you need in the short-term so that you can work with your physiotherapist to regain good biomechanics.
All of these treatment options can be successful when used in combination and when administered by a qualified health professional such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor. None of them is a panacea, but in combination we generally have great success. If you are looking for a trusted health professional to help you combat your heel pain look no further. Contact us today to set up your initial consultation.
Laurie Bickerton, FCAMPT Physiotherapist
Laurie Bickerton is a FCAMPT physiotherapist practicing at Rebalance Sports Medicine in downtown Toronto.