The new year is a few weeks old. Did you make any resolutions? (If you did, have you been keeping them?)
Most people pick something like losing weight, saving more money, quitting smoking, learning a new skill, or even reading more books. And those are all great ideas, of course.
But if you’re currently suffering from heel pain and looking for other ways to improve your life in 2019, we might suggest some of these options:
- Stop dreading the first step out of bed each morning (because it isn’t painful anymore)
- Start running or playing tennis again (because you can once again go for longer than 20 minutes without searing pain)
- Spend more time exploring and enjoying your time with family and friends (because heel pain is no longer slowing you down)
When you think about it, freedom from heel pain is about more than just having a little less pain in your day.
No heel pain means you can do more, see more, and get more out of your life. And without heel pain dragging you down, those “conventional” resolutions (exercise more, lose weight, etc.) seem much more achievable!
And we have even better news: Heel pain is very treatable. It’s not an inevitable part of growing older. You have the power to change it.
We can help with that. You just have to take the first step.
Step One: A Thorough Diagnosis and Evaluation
You may have read this on other pages on our site, but it’s worth repeating: every situation is unique.
For starters, there are tons of different potential causes of heel pain. Inflammation of the plantar fascia tissue (plantar fasciitis) under the heel is the most common, but far from the only one. It could be bursitis, or a stress fracture, an irritation of the nerves, or even sever’s disease in children—you get the idea. Furthermore, these conditions could be mild, moderate, or severe.
The underlying factors vary from person to person, too. In one situation, poor quality shoes might bear a significant portion of the responsibility. In another, it might be overtraining, or even a biomechanical defect in the shape of the foot itself.
And of course, your goals matter, too. A lot. What kind of lifestyle do you have? What about the one you want to live? The best treatment for, say, a college athlete might not be ideal for a middle-aged office worker.
All of this is to say we’ll take all the time we need to make sure we understand your condition and your concerns, and we’ll put together a treatment plan that’s going to actually work for you.
Step Two: Effective Treatment
Here’s where the fun begins.
Another reason we go through the trouble of making sure we understand your condition and your needs thoroughly is because we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all treatments. And we work hard to make sure we can offer a wide range of effective options.
Fortunately, most cases of heel pain can be treated conservatively. And many of the “tried and true” traditional remedies can still be very effective:
- Taking a temporary break from activities that cause pain (high impact sports, dancing, etc.) to give your tissues a chance to heal.
- Wearing better fitting, more appropriate shoes for your activities.
- Giving your feet extra support via orthotics, splints, compression sleeves, etc. (We carry a good selection of heel lifts and prefabricated insoles, and do custom orthotics fittings for those who need them.)
- Stretches and exercises designed to relax a tight tendon or muscle, accelerate healing, etc.
However, in a minority of cases, treatments like these won’t be enough. Fortunately for you, our practice offers more advanced options using the latest technology and research.
These treatments might not be for everyone, but that can be exceptionally useful in cases where older treatments haven’t worked, or you just need the fastest possible recovery from pain.
A great example of this kind of treatment is MLS laser therapy. This revolutionary treatment uses a pair of synchronized therapeutic lasers to stimulate cellular activity (improved vascular activity, cellular metabolism, nerve function, etc.) and natural healing and tissue regeneration processes.
After just a handful of brief sessions, pain and swelling can be greatly reduced.
Thanks to laser therapy, surgery is even less often necessary than it used to be. However, that may be an option as well in the most extreme cases. Normally we will only recommend it if all other conservative options fail.
Step Three: Keep the Pain Away!
We’re guessing that once your heel pain has subsided and you’re back to feeling your best, you’ll want to keep it that way!
As much as we love seeing you and getting to know you, what we really want is for you to be healthy and enjoy your life.
So, here are some important tips you can follow to help decrease the risk of heel pain returning—or at least minimize the amount of pain you feel on a day-to-day basis.
- Wear good shoes. Far, far too many people wear shoes, boots, and other shoe gear that just doesn’t fit properly, or isn’t appropriate for their activities. Comfortable shoes that feel great and offer plenty of arch support and cushioning are a must. Avoid high heels or wearing flip flops for more than very brief periods of time. If you play a specific sport, wear shoes designed for that sport, rather than generic or worn-out sneakers.
- Wear your orthotics, if prescribed to you. Custom orthotics, heel lifts, and cushioned insoles are like glasses—they only work when you’re wearing them! If we’ve recommended or prescribed them to you, make sure you’re using them regularly as directed. And if you notice pain start to return, it may be a sign that you need them adjusted or replaced. (We’ll help you with that, too.)
- Keep your weight within a healthy range. The math here is pretty straightforward. The heavier you are, the more pressure you put on your heels each second you stand, and every step you take. Losing weight (if you are overweight or obese) can make a huge difference.
- Stretch and exercise your feet. We can instruct you to perform simple daily stretches and exercises for your toes, your arch, your ankles, and your calves. Try standing calf stretches, rolling your arch over a tennis ball, or grasping a towel with your toes. These can reduce strain on your calves, and also build up your foot strength—meaning your tissues can absorb more force before fatiguing.
- Make reasonable workplace accommodations. If you spend most of your workday on your feet, see if there are any adjustments you can make to make things a little easier on your feet—for example, placing a rug or mat at your workstation, or taking regular breaks.
- Make smart recreational activity adjustments. Runners and athletes who engage in a lot of high-impact exercises often struggle with heel pain. Consider tweaks to your exercise routine to give your feet more of a break. For example, you could mix in some cycling or swimming instead of running every day, or try to run on softer terrain.
And of course, if pain ever flares up again, give us a call. We’re here to help.
We hope you have a healthy, happy, and active 2019—one free from unnecessary heel pain! To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bredeweg at Kalamazoo Podiatry, please call us today at (269) 373-1019.