Heel pain usually affects the underside or back of your heel. Although heel pain is rarely a symptom of a serious condition, it can interfere with your normal activities, particularly exercise.
Your foot and ankle are made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons. The heel is the largest bone in your foot. If you overuse or injure your heel, you may experience heel pain. This can range from mild to disabling.
Heel pain symptoms vary depending on the cause. In addition to pain, you may experience –
• Bony growth on the heel.
• Discoloration (bruising or redness).
• Pain after standing from a resting/sitting position.
There are several common causes of heel pain.
• Plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis occurs when too much pressure on your feet damages the plantar fascia ligament, causing pain and stiffness.
• Sprains and strains. Sprains and strains are injuries to the body, often resulting from physical activity. These injuries are common and can range from minor to severe, depending on the incident.
• Fracture. A fracture is a broken bone. This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.
• Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis occurs when the tendon that attaches the calf muscles to the heel becomes painful or inflamed due to overuse injuries.
• Bursitis. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found about your joints. They surround the areas where tendons, skin, and muscle tissues meet bones.
• Ankylosing spondylitis. This form of arthritis primarily affects your spine. It causes severe inflammation of the vertebrae that might eventually lead to chronic pain and disability.
• Osteochondroses. These disorders directly affect the growth of bones in children and adolescents.
• Reactive arthritis. An infection in the body triggers this is a type of arthritis.
Risk Factors –
Anything that puts a lot of pressure and strain on your foot can cause heel pain. The way you walk (foot mechanics) and your foot’s shape (foot structure) are also factors.
You may be more likely to develop heel pain if you –
• Are overweight (have obesity).
• Have foot and ankle arthritis, flat feet or high foot arches.
• Run or jump a lot in sports or for exercise.
• Spend a lot of time standing, especially on concrete floors.
• Wear improperly fitted shoes without arch support and/or cushion.
Heel pain can interfere with your ability to get around, work, exercise and complete daily tasks. When it hurts to move, you can become sedentary. An inactive lifestyle can lead to weight gain. You may also become depressed because you can’t do the things you love.
Your healthcare provider will assess your symptoms and perform a physical exam. You may also get X-rays to check for arthritis, bone fractures, bone alignment and joint damage.
Rarely, you may need an MRI or ultrasound. These can show soft tissue problems which X-rays don’t reveal.
If you develop heel pain, you can try these methods at home to ease your discomfort –
• Rest as much as possible.
• Apply ice to the heel for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day.
• Take over-the-counter pain medications.
• Wear shoes that fit properly.
• Wear a night splint, a special device that stretches the foot while you sleep.
• Use heel lifts or shoe inserts to reduce pain.
Improper placement of the foot on the ground or by walking over an irregular surface can lead to painful heels. This is termed Vatakantaka(vata – vata dosha & kantaka – thorns) in Ayurveda and could be correlated with heel pain.
Treatment options for heel pain in Ayurveda could be as follows-
• Dhara: Use of warm oil (including Ghee, Herbs, milk and Dhanyamlam) on heels to provide relief. Also helps with headaches and tension.
• Kolakulathadi Choorna: It is a special Ayurvedic paste applied externally for the relief of heel spur and other inflammations. Applying Kolakulathadi Chooran with water in form of a paste over the affected heels and letting it dry for over 4 hours can help bring the heel pain under control.
• Agni Karma: a unique para surgical procedure in ayurvedic practice where a specific degree of heat is administered to the heel with a specialized instrument. The pain gets relieved and avoids a recurrence.
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