Pain in the heel can result from a number of factors. Abnormalities of the skin, nerves, bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues of the heel can all result in pain. Because of walking and daily movement, we are always at risk for injury or trauma to the heel area. Common causes of pain in the heel include blisters and corns. Plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the "bowstring-like" tissue in the sole of the foot stretching from the heel to the front of the foot, is one condition commonly associated with heel pain. Sometimes diseases that affect other areas of the body, like peripheral vascular disease or arthritis, can also result in pain in the foot or heel. Sever's disease is a cause of heel pain in children that results from injury to the growth plate of the heel bone. Treatments for heel pain depend on the particular cause.
Other causes of heel pain
- Achilles Tendonitis
- High-Impact Physical Activity
- Improperly Fitting Shoes
- Prolonged Standing
- Tumor (Benign, Malignant-Rare)
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Causes of Heel Pain
Arthritis (Joint Inflammation)
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick, spiral, vertebral compression, compound, and comminuted. Symptoms of a broken bone include pain at the site of injury, swelling, and bruising around the area of injury. Treatment of a fracture depends on the type and location of the injury.
A bruise, or contusion, is caused when blood vessels are damaged or broken as the result of a blow to the skin. The raised area of a bump or bruise results from blood leaking from these injured blood vessels into the tissues as well as from the body's response to the injury. Treatments include applying an ice pack and pressure to the area by hand.
Bug Bites and Stings
Bug bites and stings have been known to transmit insect-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease. Though most reactions to insect bites and stings are mild, some reactions may be life-threatening. Preventing bug bites and stings with insect repellant, wearing the proper protective attire, and not wearing heavily scented perfumes when in grassy, wooded, and brushy areas is key.
The common bunion, an enlargement of the inner portion of the joint at the base of the big toe, primarily affects women. The signs and symptoms of bunions include inflammation, redness, tenderness, and pain of the first metatarsophalangeal joint. The little toe may also develop a bunion (tailor's bunion). Rest, walking shoes, stretching, cold packs, and anti-inflammatory medications may alleviate pain. Surgery is also a treatment option.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which irritation of the wrist's median nerve causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers. Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the symptoms and the nature of any disease that might be causing the symptoms.
Corns and calluses are sometimes painful areas of thickened skin that appear between the toes and fingers or on the soles of the feet. Abnormal foot anatomy, ill-fitting footwear, and unusual gait can put increased pressure in specific areas, causing corns and calluses. Treatment may involve using over-the-counter salicylic-acid products, visiting a podiatrist to be fitted with an orthotic device, or surgical removal.
Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds
Cuts, scrapes, and puncture wounds are common, and most people will experience one of these in their lifetime. Evaluating the injury, and thoroughly cleaning the injury is important. Some injuries should be evaluated by a doctor, and a tetanus shot may be necessary. Treatment will depend upon the severity of the injury.
Flatfoot (Pes Planus)
Flatfoot is a disorder in which the foot's entire sole is touching the ground while standing. Symptoms and signs of flatfoot include heel, ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain and shin splints. Treatment depends upon the type of flatfoot, the symptoms, and the stage of the disorder.
Foot pain may be caused by injuries (sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures), diseases (diabetes, Hansen disease, and gout), viruses, fungi, and bacteria (plantar warts and athlete's foot), or even ingrown toenails. Pain and tenderness may be accompanied by joint looseness, swelling, weakness, discoloration, and loss of function. Minor foot pain can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation and OTC medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Severe pain should be treated by a medical professional.
Heel spurs -- pointed, bony outgrowths of the heel -- cause localized soft-tissue inflammation and can be located at the back of the heel or under the heel, or beneath the sole of the foot. Heel spurs are treated with ice application and anti-inflammatory medications. Orthotics may also provide some relief.
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Potential causes include injections around the bone, fractures that puncture the skin, recent surgeries, and bacterial infections that travel from other areas of the body, spreading through the blood to the bone. Symptoms include pain, fever, chills, stiffness, and nausea. Treatment involves antibiotics and pain medications. Surgery is sometimes necessary.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and brain. While there are many causes of peripheral vascular disease, doctors commonly use the term peripheral vascular disease to refer to peripheral artery disease (peripheral arterial disease, PAD), a condition that develops when the arteries that supply blood to the internal organs, arms, and legs become completely or partially blocked as a result of atherosclerosis. Peripheral artery disease symptoms include intermittent leg pain while walking, leg pain at rest, numbness in the legs or feet, and poor wound healing in the legs or feet. Treatment for peripheral artery disease include lifestyle measures, medication, angioplasty, and surgery.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the ligament underneath the sole of the foot. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include heel pain, foot pain, tenderness, stiffness, and difficulty walking on hard surfaces. Plantar fasciitis treatment involves icing the area, taking anti-inflammatory medications, using orthotics, and physical therapy.
Sciatica pain, caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, typically radiates from the low back to behind the thigh to below the knee. Disc herniation is usually the cause of sciatica. Medication to alleviate pain, physical therapy, and bed rest are treatments for sciatica.
Sever condition is an inflammation of the growth plate of the bone at the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon attaches. Sever condition can be very painful and is commonly referred to as "growing pains." The condition often disappears with age, but it can also be treated by limiting activity, using antiinflammatory medications, shoe inserts, and heel lifts.
Snake Bite (Snake Bite)
There are venomous (poisonous) and nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snakes. A venomous snake bite penetrates the skin and injects, secretes, or spits a toxin into the penetrated wound. Symptoms of a venomous snake bite include: redness at the site of the bite, swelling at the site of the bite, severe pain at the site of the bite, nausea and vomiting labored breathing disturbed vision increased sweating and salivation, and numbness or tingling in the face or arms and legs. Treatment of a venomous snake is a medical emergency, and the person that has been bitten needs to be taken to an emergency department or other emergent care facility as soon as possible.
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be caused by repetitive movements or a single stressful incident. Symptoms and signs include pain and swelling. Though treatment depends upon the extent and location of the injury, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are key elements of treatment.
Vasculitis (Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Types)
Vasculitis (arteritis, angiitis) is a general term for a group of uncommon diseases which feature inflammation of the blood vessels. Each form of vasculitis has its own characteristic pattern of symptoms. The diagnosis of vasculitis is definitively established after a biopsy of involved tissue demonstrates the pattern of blood vessel inflammation. Treatment is directed toward decreasing the inflammation of the arteries and improving the function of affected organs.
Warts (Common Warts)
Common warts are skin growths causes by the human papillomavirus. There are many types of warts, including plantar warts, common hand warts, warts under the nails, mosaic wars, and flat warts. Over-the-counter treatments typically involve the use of salicylic acid products.
Examples of Medications for Heel Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- etodolac, Lodine (Discontinued)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- Ketorolac vs. diclofenac
- Ketorolac vs. ibuprofen (Advil)
- Ketorolac vs. naproxen (Aleve)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
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