Despite what you may have heard, good things don’t always come to those who wait.
Now, don’t get us wrong here. We’re not saying that patience is no longer a virtue, or that you shouldn’t be calm, cool, and collected.
But when it comes to many medical conditions and injuries, simply waiting around and hoping things get better won’t get you the results you need. That’s often the case with heel pain.
And the thing is, heel pain isn’t just “one of those things” you’re supposed to deal with if you’re an athlete, or when you’re getting older.
Heel pain is not normal. You don’t have to have it just because you reach a certain age, work a certain job, or have certain hobbies. It’s a sign that something is wrong. And it’s almost always treatable, if not outright curable, via conservative measures.
The Downside of Delaying
Now, we work hard to make our office as welcoming, warm, and comfortable as possible. We want you to actually enjoy your time here.
But look, we get it. Most people lead busy lives, and carving out some time out of that schedule to see a doctor isn’t always easy. So they put it off, and put it off, and put it off …
Yet there are some really good reasons you really should break the cycle and get your heel pain checked out.
The first and most obvious is that it’ll put you on the fast track to relief.
Although heel pain sometimes goes away on its own with a little bit of rest and icing, far too often symptoms linger for weeks, then months, and possibly even longer. At some point, your body enters a state of chronic inflammation, and without more focused intervention the cellular healing process basically just stalls out.
And of course, in the meantime, that pain may be keeping you away from what you really want to do. You start to shy away from going on long walks or hikes, or going on that camping trip, or playing sports because you know how badly your feet are going to hurt.
Another thing you may need to consider? Heel pain might seem simple on the surface, but it can actually be pretty complex.
For starters, there are several different diagnoses that can cause similar or overlapping symptoms, including plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, pinched nerves, and stress fractures.
And even within those individual diagnoses, the underlying causes may be unique to your situation. For example, one person’s plantar fasciitis might mostly be the result of wearing poor quality shoes, while for someone else, the blame mostly rests with faulty foot structure.
So if you don’t get a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis from a specialist, you might not know what you even have, why you have it, or most importantly, the best way to treat it. Far too often, we see patients who’ve been trying to fix their heel pain on their own but haven’t had success because they made the wrong “diagnosis” and were following the wrong advice!
Finally, it’s important to point out that some forms of heel pain, if left untreated, can progressively get worse until they result in a major injury.
If you have Achilles tendinitis, for example, your tendon fibers may deteriorate further and further until one day … SNAP! Now you’re looking at a very painful tendon rupture, probably a surgery, and in any case, a very lengthy recovery.
Stress fractures, likewise, can deepen and worsen until they become more serious broken bones. And even chronic inflammatory pain just generally gets more difficult to deal with the longer you let it go.
The Relief of Proper Treatment
We’ll repeat the good news, in case you missed it earlier: Heel pain is treatable, and the vast majority of the time surgery is not necessary.
Of course, it all starts with a thorough evaluation and an accurate diagnosis. That means we take the time to evaluate your condition, watch you walk, and talk with you about your symptoms and your experiences. If necessary, we may want to perform some additional diagnostic tests just to be sure.
Then, we’ll recommend some possible treatment options, guide you through the pros and cons, and help you make an informed choice for your care. We like to give you options because what works best for one particular person or lifestyle may not be as good a choice for you.
Shoe inserts that help to better position your feet, support your arch, and cushion your heels are often one of the best treatment options for many people. Our office provides a good selection of prefabricated inserts, and we also do fitting for lab-made custom orthotics for those who need extra precision and performance. We are happy to help you figure out what type of orthotic would be most appropriate for your situation.
Other treatments that may be recommended include strapping, padding, cortisone injections, EPAT, and stretching exercises. If we think it would be helpful, we’ll happily refer you to a good physical therapist as well.
Surgery is, as we said, rarely necessary. However, it may be an option for severe or recurring heel pain, particularly if all other conservative options have been unsuccessful. While surgery is never our first choice, it can provide lasting relief for those that need it.
Again, both your condition and your lifestyle goals will help determine which treatment methods are most appropriate.
Now Don’t Let Your Pain Come Back!
So let’s say you’ve made the very good decision to seek treatment for your heel pain, and now you’re feeling a whole lot better. Great choice, and good for you!
Now the conversation shifts from “don’t sit around and wait for your pain to go away” to “don’t sit around and wait for your pain to come back.”
Most likely at this point in the process, you’ve already had a good conversation with us about what factors most likely contributed to your heel pain, and we’ve given you some strategies to prevent it in the future.
Still, it never hurts to get these out into the open.
- Wear good shoes! Always go for footwear that’s comfortable, fits your feet, supports and cushions your arch and sole, and is appropriate for whatever activity you’re using them for.
- If we prescribed you orthotics, remember to keep wearing them! If they aren’t working as well as they should or as well as they used to, they may need to be adjusted.
- Ease into new activities. Starting a new sport or exercise program is great, but if you don’t take it slow at first and let your body adjust, you’re more likely to hurt yourself. Always warm up first and cool down afterward, too.
- While building that workout program, remember to cross-train! Instead of running every single day (very high impact), make sure you spend some time in the weight room and get some non-impact sources of cardio (cycling, swimming, etc.).
- Keep a healthy body weight. The heavier you are, the more pressure your feet are going to feel when you stand, walk, run, or jump.
Being proactive with both treatment and prevention will help spare your feet a lot of unnecessary pain!
Ready to take the first step? Give Dr. Timothy Dailey and the Freeland Foot Clinic a call today at (989) 695-6788 to schedule your appointment.