You may not have thought much about the first twinges of heel pain. You pushed through and continued with your normal activities. But the pain has become unbearable. You are no longer able to run or play pick-up basketball.
Or perhaps you are not the one who is suffering, but you are worried about your child who is unable to play the sport he or she loves because of heel pain. You have reason to be concerned. Many youth coaches are unaware of the causes and symptoms of growth plate injuries (apophysitis) and push their young athletes toward injury.
Before you or your child gets any worse, come into Center Grove Foot & Ankle Care for a complete evaluation by our experienced podiatrist, Dr. Mark Runkle. He will diagnose the cause of the heel pain and will begin with the most conservative treatments first.
Causes of Heel Pain
The leading cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, but there are a variety of other possible conditions that cause intense heel pain. When you go to your pediatrician or general practitioner for treatment, it is likely that other possibilities will not be considered and you will waste time and money on the wrong treatment. At Center Grove, Dr. Runkle will conduct an extensive exam to determine the correct diagnosis. Conditions he will consider include the following:
- Plantar fasciitis. When the tissue that connects the heel to the toes becomes inflamed, the sufferer will experience pain on the bottom of the heel. Left untreated, the ligaments can begin to tear, further complicating the problem. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by poor alignment or flat feet, but is usually caused by wearing incorrect shoes, particularly among athletes. Treatment includes stretching, icing, shoe inserts, and anti-inflammatories. Extreme cases may require night splints or physical therapy.
- Stress fracture. A tiny fracture in the heel bone is called a calcaneal stress fracture. It is caused by overuse and is commonly seen in distance runners and other athletes. Treatment includes complete rest, use of crutches, and possibly a plaster cast.
- Tendonitis. Irritation of the tendons of the ankle or foot can cause heel pain. While Achilles tendonitis usually causes pain in the ankle above the heel, it can also affect the heel. If the condition is caught early, it can be treated with rest and stretching. However, once the tendon ruptures, treatment becomes much more invasive.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome of the hand, tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by irritation to the tarsal nerve in the ankle and can cause widespread pain and numbness throughout the foot, including in the heel. A custom orthotic may be prescribed to treat this condition.
- Nerve entrapment. When the nerve running under the bottom of the heel, known as Baxter’s nerve, becomes irritated or entrapped, the painful symptoms can mimic plantar fasciitis. Successful treatment of the condition usually involves surgery to release the entrapped nerve.
- Arthritis. A person suffering from rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis may experience heel pain as part of the condition. If the systemic condition is not diagnosed, it is possible that the heel pain could be diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, subjecting the sufferer to unnecessary treatment for heel pain.
While there is a wealth of medical information available on the internet—including on this website—it is vital that you seek the advice of a podiatrist when you are experiencing chronic heel pain. Early intervention could prevent a much more serious injury. Dr. Runkle’s 22 years of experience allow him to quickly assess and diagnose your heel condition, saving valuable time.
A Conservative Approach
Whatever your heel condition is, Dr. Runkle will exhaust conservative, non-surgical options before considering surgery. Stretching regimens, anti-inflammatories, shoe recommendations, orthotics, cortisone, and physical therapy will be utilized as appropriate. However, if surgery is necessary, Dr. Runkle is a board-certified foot and ankle surgeon.
As a former competitive athlete, Dr. Runkle has a special interest in treating sports injuries. He understands the dedication and determination that drives athletes and his goal is to get athletes back on the court or field, not to discourage them from participating.
Whether you are a competitive athlete or not, heel pain can be debilitating. Don’t suffer a day longer than you have to. Call to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis office today and get on the road to recovery.