There are plenty of reasons you might be experiencing heel pain. Acute injuries aren’t the only cause of heel pain either. Many people suffer from chronic heel pain due to conditions like Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. Regardless of what’s causing your pain, getting it diagnosed and beginning preventive care like stretches can help stop future episodes.
At Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center in Evergreen and Wheat Ridge, Colorado, our team of expert foot specialists can diagnose and treat whatever is causing your heel pain. We can also help design a foot exercise and stretching program to help you avoid heel pain in the future.
Diagnosing heel pain
Before moving forward with stretches or other treatment, it’s important to understand the cause of your heel pain. First, you should determine whether your heel pain is acute or chronic.
Acute injuries typically heal on their own with bedrest and gentle stretches. Diagnostic imaging can help determine exactly what happened to make your heel hurt so badly, and identify what soft tissues are involved. From there, we recommend the correct therapy to prevent the pain from becoming chronic.
Chronic heel pain can be more difficult to diagnose and treat. The three most common causes of heel pain include:
- Achilles tendinitis, which causes pain behind the heel
- Plantar fasciitis, which causes pain below the heel
- Heel spurs, often caused by either of the above conditions left untreated
Stretches for heel pain
Pain behind the heel often indicates a problem with the Achilles tendon, which connects your calf muscles to your heel. If this tendon becomes strained, it can lead to debilitating pain. If completely torn, you might require surgery to reattach the tendon to your heel. This condition is more common among athletes, especially runners.
The most common cause of bottom heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This occurs when the fascia, the band of tissue connecting your heels to your toes, becomes stiff and painful. The fascia absorbs shock every time you take a step, and overuse and improper gait can lead to micro-tears and inflammation.
This pain comes and goes; you might feel better after walking around and stretching your feet, but the pain will return when you step out of bed the next morning.
To alleviate stiffness and encourage blood flow to the area, it’s recommended that you do a series of stretches every morning to prevent heel pain throughout the day. Here are five heel stretches you can do to get your day off on a good foot:
- Roll your feet over a cold water bottle or can to massage the fascia and reduce stiffness
- Stretch your toes by grabbing them and gently pulling backward to flex them
- Place a rag or band under your foot and stretch your leg, putting pressure on the fascia
- Scrunch and curl your toes repeatedly, making sure to stretch as you do
- Raise your heels and stand on your toes, holding the position longer each time
You should be doing these exercises in the morning, at night, and before every workout, even if you’re not experiencing pain at that moment. Many people stop doing their stretches once the pain abates, and then have to start over when their heel begins to hurt again.
If stretches, bedrest, and NSAIDs aren’t doing enough for your heel pain, it might be time to consult a specialist. To get in touch with the team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center, call the location closest to you, or request an appointment online.