Is your heel in need of healing?
“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
Just think about it. Your feet contain nearly one-quarter of all the bones in your body, and each foot contains 33 joints. When these work together to help you stand, walk, run, jump and dance, the engineering and artistry is on display. When these don’t work and your foot hurts, movement becomes difficult and disabling. Grace Ouyang, MD, a doctor of podiatry and podiatric surgery at New Ulm Medical Center, discusses heel pain and what you can do to keep your feet in tip-top condition.
The most frequent complaint most podiatrists hear about from their patients is heel pain. The pain can be under the heel or along the side or back of the heel and does not go away with rest and icing. The first step in dealing with heel pain is determining the cause. Heel pain can have many causes, including, but not limited to:
• Bone dislocation
• Bone spurs or tumors
• Congenital foot problems
• Diseases, such as osteoporosis or arthritis
• Improper fitting shoe
• Injury, such as stepping on a hard object such as a stone or rock
• Overuse injury, such as plantar fasciitis or stress fractures
Most heel pain is temporary and goes away with home care, including rest, ice, proper fitting shoes, over-the-counter foot supports and anti-inflam- matory medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. But if these treatments don’t work, or if the pain worsens, you may need to see a podiatrist.
Your doctor will examine your feet, looking for signs of tenderness and swelling. You may need an X-ray to look for stress fractures or bone spurs. You may be asked to walk or stand on one foot, and your doctor will examine your shoes for signs of wear that might indicate that your center of balance has shifted.
In addition, your doctor will ask you about your exercise habits. Have you made changes to your workout routine, increased your mileage if you are a runner or the length of time being active on your feet? Many heel problems are caused by overuse injuries, and if you have increased your activity, this may be leading to your heel pain.
Once a cause has been identified, treatment can include resting from activities that cause or aggravate the pain, different shoes, orthotics and stretching exercises, such as massaging your arch, rolling your foot over a tennis ball or a frozen water bottle, or stretching your calf muscles. Sometimes, when these treatments fail, surgery may be needed, but most people recover from foot pain without surgery.
Your feet were meant to last a lifetime, so make sure you treat your feet well. Be sure to address any foot pain or issues early so they don’t build up over time and become chronic.
To learn more about Ouyang, visit wellness.allinahealth.org/ouyang, or make an appointment by calling 507-217-5011.