Heel pain stems primarily from overuse, and more rarely, from injury. Swollen and tender heels may result from hard or awkward landings or turning of the foot, running on concrete, shoes offering little support, or the tightening of leg muscles. Conditions with related heel pain include plantar fasciitis, bursitis, Achilles tendinitis, and bone spurs in the heel.
If self-care measures like resting, ice applications, pain medication, shoe supports, or new shoes do not relieve pain, then individuals should see a physician. Treatment will depend on the cause of heel pain, and may include prescription medication. A doctor may refer patients to a physical therapist to learn exercises that stretch and strengthen their feet. Additionally, a physician may recommend a night splint to help stretch the foot.
Some cases of heel pain do not respond to self-care and medical management. I have treated cases successfully using radiofrequency nerve ablation (RFNA). In this procedure, I place an electrode into the tissue of the painful area. Then, I administer an electric current that delivers heat, thereby destroying the sensory nerve fibers beneath the skin. Another advance in the treatment of heel pain is extracorporeal shock wave therapy, in which a physician targets strong sound waves to the heel pain area. Both of these treatments only require short recovery periods.
About the author: Dr. Ronald Sollitto has written about the treatment of chronic heel pain in The Foot & Ankle Specialist. An experienced Surgeon of the foot, ankle, and lower leg, he currently oversees the daily operations as CEO of Saddle Brook Surgicenter, Inc., in New Jersey. Dr. Sollitto holds Diplomate status with the American Board of Podiatric Surgery and the American Board of Forensic Medicine.