Dr Mark Nelson
Foot & Ankle Specialist
Heel Pain Epidemic Afflicts Weekend Athletes
American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons Offers Prevention/Treatment Tips
PARK RIDGE, Ill., July 17, 2002 – Heel pain among weekend sports participants, runners and those beginning exercise programs is reaching epidemic proportions, according to a leading podiatric sports medicine expert with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
"We’re seeing a lot of heel pain these days, and much of it can be traced to preventable causes, such as stress from excessive athletic activity and poorly designed footwear," said Richard T. Bouché, DPM, FACFAS, a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon at Virginia Mason Sports Medicine Clinic in Seattle.
According Bouché, if an athletic shoe bends in the middle, it may not provide the required stability and protection against heel pain. "The shoe should bend in the area in which the toes bend and not at the arch," said Bouché. "Heel pain is a very common ‘overuse’ sports injury and weekend athletes should wear well designed athletic shoes specific for the shape of their feet."
Bouché added that that when heel pain occurs, it’s best decrease and sometimes eliminate strenuous athletic activity until the pain subsides and seek treatment if symptoms persist.
It is estimated that 15 percent of all adult foot complaints involve plantar fasciitis, the type of heel pain caused by chronic inflammation of the connective tissue extending from the heel bone to the toes. Conservative treatment is effective in most cases and initial options include: anti-inflammatory medications, padding and strapping of the foot, stretching exercises for the calf and plantar fascia and icing. Also, anyone with heel pain should not walk barefoot, wear flat shoes or use arch supports. More extensive treatments may involve wearing night splints to stretch the calf muscles and plantar fascia while asleep, custom orthotic insoles, steroid injections, deep massage and strengthening exercises.
Bouché noted that surgical options may be considered when conservative treatment fails to remedy heel pain. For plantar fasciitis, the fascia may be partially or totally released (plantar fasciotomy), and if a heel spur is present, it may be taken out as well.
Heel pain surgery normally is performed on an outpatient basis under regional or local anesthesia. Patients may be required to use crutches after surgery and progress to a walking cast and physical therapy after a variable period of time. For an athlete, it may take four to nine months of recovery before an unlimited return to sports activity is allowed.
A relatively new non-invasive technique, extracorporeal shock wave therapy, also is effective for treating severe, chronic heel pain in adults. This new procedure uses a device to generate shock waves aimed at the treatment site. The shock waves achieve therapeutic results by increasing blood flow to trigger a healing response. This eases inflammation in the heel and relieves chronic pain.
This article was provided with permission by the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons.
Dr. Nelson's "Top 10 Tips" for Treating Plantar Fasciitis (aka - "Heel Spurs")
1) Wear a
custom-made prescription orthotic (best treatment) or a
high quality pre-made type
arch support, like Orthofeet BioSole.
- *very important*
You don't have to suffer with heel pain. You can get rid of your heel pain if you follow each of the top 5 suggestions listed above. If you do each of the top 5 suggestions on a daily basis, you have over a 90% chance of eliminating your pain due to plantar fasciitis (heel spurs).
Successfully relieving plantar fasciitis heel pain requires using a variety of synergistic treatment modalities. The goal is to stop the activities which are irritating the plantar fascia, position the foot into the correct anatomical alignment, reduce strain on the plantar fascia while standing/walking, calm down the inflammation and stretch out the plantar fascia, so that it can heal properly in an elongated position. The longer you let heel pain go untreated, the harder it becomes to eliminate the pain. For most people, using a combination of arch supports/orthotics, a night splint while sleeping or sitting down, stretching twice daily and modifying their activities is sufficient to make their plantar fasciitis heel pain progressively resolve. Fortunately, surgery is rarely needed. Keep a positive attitude and remember that, yes, you can usually eliminate your heel pain by using these treatment suggestions.
The Strassburg Sock ™
The Strassburg Sock treats plantar fasciitis heel pain at night while you sleep in comfort. Plantar fasciitis is also commonly called "heel spur syndrome" or "heel spurs". This style of night splint is much more comfortable to wear while sleeping than traditional hard plastic back (or front) style night splints. Plus, the Strassburg Sock night splint is much less expensive than most other styles of night splints.
Which Orthotic / Arch Support Should I Use?
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