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Is heel pain blocking your fitness goals?

By Dr. Nicole Freels, FACFAOM

Is heel pain blocking  your fitness goals? Heel pain is one of the most common foot conditions affecting Americans. It’s been estimated that as many as half of us suffer from it at one time or another.

There are many things that can cause heel pain, including stress fractures, heel spurs, gait problems, tarsal tunnel syndrome and Achilles tendinitis. But the most common cause of heel pain, by far, is plantar fasciitis … an inflammation of the ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

• Pain and stiffness in the arch or heel. The pain is often severe in the morning, when you first get out of bed, or upon standing after you’ve been sitting for a while.

• Pain in the arch or heel that gets worse as the day goes on.

• A feeling that your feet are tired and worn out at the end of the day.

In many cases, plantar fasciitis is brought on by an overenthusiastic attempt to get into shape in a shortened period of time. The increased activity (and intensity level) stresses the ligament, causing it to become swollen and inflamed. This can be especially frustrating because it seems as though your own body is sabotaging the effort to become healthier.

It may not always be possible to avoid plantar fasciitis, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. First, and most important, is ensuring good support for your feet. Invest in a pair of high-quality shoes that fit well and support your arch. Many foot problems, not just plantar fasciitis, can be avoided this way.

Increase your activity level gradually. Don’t attempt to run a mile or compete in a 5K right out of the gate. You didn’t put the pounds on overnight; it’s not reasonable to think you can take them off overnight, either. Your entire body – not just your feet – will thank you.

Consider switching up your exercises. Exercises that put a lot of stress on the feet –aerobics, kickboxing, running and even walking – increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Swimming, stationary biking, yoga and rowing are exercises that are effective yet don’t stress the feet.

When it’s time to exercise, stretch all of your muscles, including those in your feet. If you’re uncertain how to stretch out your feet, talk to your podiatrist or consult with a personal trainer.

If, despite all of your efforts at prevention, you develop heel pain, the best advice is to get to a podiatrist as soon as possible. Heel pain is unlikely to go away on its own, and it will most certainly get worse, making it more difficult for you to meet your fitness goals.

At Lexington Podiatry, we believe in the conservative approach to treating foot problems. The first step is to understand the root of the problem.

Once it’s determined plantar fasciitis is responsible, efforts are centered around allowing the fascia to heal and minimizing future problems.

In many cases, patients will see significant improvement just from changing their shoes. Shoe inserts (orthotics) that support the arch may also be prescribed. Patients who are experiencing intense pain maybe prescribed a walking boot, which will support the foot and help to relieve pain while the ligament heals.

Stretches, rest, ice treatments and physical therapy may also be prescribed. Some patients benefit from the use of anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen. In severe cases, steroid injections may be necessary. When conservative treatments don’t relieve the pain, we offer PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injections in the office. In rare cases, surgery might be necessary, but it has been my experience that most patients experience improvement without surgery.

The important thing to know is that you don’t have to live with heel or arch pain. Call our office at 859-264-1141 or make an online appointment. We’ll get you on the path to recovery!

Lexington Podiatry

2700 Old Rosebud Rd., #110
Lexington, KY 40509

Call Us: 859.264.1141

Text Us 859.203.4042


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