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Plantar fasciitis
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Plantar fasciitis

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Most commonly, heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the fibrous tissue (plantar fascia) along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone (calcaneus) to your toes.

The plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. However, if tension on that bowstring becomes too great, minute tears can occur along with inflammation. The result is a stabbing or burning pain that's usually worse in the morning because the fascia tightens (contracts) overnight. Once your foot limbers up, the pain generally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position. In severe instances, your foot may hurt with the slightest pressure, making walking difficult. Sometimes, plantar fasciitis is also associated with a growth (bone spur) that develops from tension on your heel bone.

Self-care

By following these self-care tips, you may be able to eliminate heel pain without needing further treatment.

  • Apply ice. Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Or try ice massage. Freeze a water-filled paper cup and roll it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Put your feet up. Stay off your feet for several days when the pain is severe.

  • Decrease your miles. You probably won't have to permanently retire your running or walking shoes, but it's a good idea to cover shorter distances until pain subsides.

  • Take up a no- or low-impact exercise. Swap swimming or bicycling for walking or jogging. You'll likely be able to return to your regular activities as heel pain gradually improves or disappears. However, some people find that the only way to avoid a recurring problem is to permanently modify their aerobic activities.

  • Add cushions to your shoes. Inexpensive over-the-counter arch supports, heel pads and cushions that cup your heels (heel cups) take the tension off the plantar fascia and help absorb shock.

  • Try acupressure techniques. Apply pressure to the heel by rolling a golf ball or tennis ball with the arch of your foot, while you are standing and stabilized. This can help reduce pain and increase blood flow.

  • Stretch your arches. Simple exercises using household objects can stretch or strengthen your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.

 

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