If you’ve ever had an interest in running, chances are you’ve heard of or even experienced Plantar Fasciitis… that burning heel pain resulting from inflammation of the ligaments which run under the foot. Plantar Fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain for patients attending physiotherapy or personal training sessions. The second most common cause of heel pain is Heel Fat Pad Syndrome (HFPS). HFPS is the result of degradation of elasticity and/or thickness of the heel pad itself. The prevalence of these conditions is due largely to the amount of running and jumping undertaken, particularly with the surge in popularity of HIIT workouts over the past decade. We also see the usual suspects at play leading to heel pain including age, weight and even lack of exercise.
Some signs and symptoms of plantar fascia is that the pain comes on for no apparent reason and is felt deep in the heel. Symptoms are generally worse in the morning and can often ease with some gentle exercise. This pain can be aggravated by prolonged standing on hard surfaces.
The pain associated with fat pad syndrome can often develop from a fall which has transferred force through the heel, or from heavy heel striking when walking or running. It is common in military services where long distance marching is involved.
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So how do you treat and manage heel pain?
Firstly, it is very important that you are thoroughly examined by a podiatrist, physiotherapist or sports doctor as soon as the pain comes on. The professional will determine the extent of the injury and make a diagnosis. They can then start appropriate management and get the patient back to full function.
Treatment may include massage of the plantar fascia, dry needling, post exercise icing, and stretching of the fascia itself. Lots of heel symptoms can also be related to poor lower limb biomechanics and so there may be a need for corrective orthotics, foot taping techniques to reduce the load on the fascia as well as high quality, prescribed footwear.
Treatment of the fat pad syndrome includes reducing the impact on the heel as well as good footwear and possibly the use of a rubber heel cup that fits into the heel of the shoe.
So, at the first sign of heel pain go and visit your health professional to get on top of things quickly.