Diagnosis of heel pain
Heel pain diagnosis will depend on the onset of your pain. Typically, the first step is for you to describe to your doctor what you are experiencing, and what led to your pain.
If your pain was the result of an acute injury such as a fall, or a sports injury such as overuse, your doctor will likely begin with a physical exam to check your range of motion and for any visible signs of injury, such as deformity or swelling.
Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs are also commonly used to check for stress fractures and other injuries.
If your doctor suspects bursitis, arthritis, or another condition, he or she may recommend a blood test or test of the fluid from the bursae themselves to look for other causes of your heel pain.
Many cases of heel pain can be treated with at-home care, such as rest, icing, elevation, and compression (RICE), or a combination of supportive braces and stretching.
Plantar fasciitis often responds to gentle stretching and exercise to help lengthen the fascia and prevent irritation and swelling.
Wearing supportive footwear with proper arch support for your foot can also ease symptoms, as can resting and not overtraining for athletic activities like running. If you are overweight, losing weight can reduce swelling and the strain on your heel.
If your heel pain is the result of an acute injury such as fall or does not resolve on its own with a few weeks of at-home treatment, your doctor may suggest additional treatments, such as taping, braces, or splints. For plantar fasciitis, wearing a splint to hold your foot in a flexed position at night can also help resolve plantar fasciitis symptoms.
Your doctor may recommend medications to reduce swelling and pain. In rare cases, physical therapy or surgery may be required to remove a heel spur or pump bump or correct heel pain from some conditions like tumors, bursitis, or tendinitis.
The recovery process for heel pain varies widely, depending on the source of the pain. This is one of the reasons why seeking a prompt diagnosis is important, since the sooner treatment can begin, the sooner the pain is likely to dissipate.
Almost all people with plantar fasciitis find relief with conservative treatment such as rest and stretching, within two months.
Injuries such as fracture may require longer periods of immobilization and rest before you can return to your normal activities.
Surgical recovery times vary depending on your health, weight, age, and the specific procedure used. Plantar fasciitis correction surgery takes an average of six weeks, while heel spur surgery may take up to three months.
Surgery for heel pain is very rare, and if it is necessary for your treatment plan, your surgeon will let you know what to expect after the procedure, including how long you will need to keep weight off of your foot.
When to see a doctor for heel pain?
While heel pain can be quite irritating and interfere with daily activities, it is very rarely the result of a serious medical condition.
In some cases, heel pain can be a symptom of appendicitis or a more significant injury. You should call your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Your joint “locks” or you have sudden loss of range of motion
- You cannot walk or bend your foot downward
- Your pain gets significantly worse over time even with rest, ice, and other at-home treatments
- You have severe pain immediately after a fall, car crash, or other traumatic injury
- There is significant swelling around your heel
- You have shooting pains up your leg
- You cannot feel your toes
- You have heel pain with a fever or other signs of infection, such as redness, heat, or a rash
- You have heel pain with severe abdominal pain
Dignity Health provides complete care for heel pain as part of our orthopedic services. Find a Doctor to get relief for your heel pain today.
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.