What are the Most Common Causes of Severe Heel Pain?

T. Broderick

There are many common causes of severe heel pain. Plantar fasciitis, a form of inflammation, is the most common. Heel spurs and tarsal tunnel syndrome are other likely conditions one may have if experiencing severe heel pain. Stress fractures, though not common in the majority of heel pain sufferers, affect many athletes, including long distance runners. Consulting with one's physician becomes necessary when heel pain begins affecting one's walking and/or quality of life.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause severe heel pain.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome can cause severe heel pain.

More often than not, severe heel pain is due to plantar fasciitis. There is roughly a 10% chance a person will suffer from this condition in his or her lifetime. In this condition, the connective tissue that runs between the heel and toes becomes inflamed. After some time the condition can cause knee pain as a side effect. Treating plantar fasciitis is crucial, as over time the inflammation can lead to degeneration of connective tissue within the foot.

Plantar fasciitis can cause knee pain as well as heel pain.
Plantar fasciitis can cause knee pain as well as heel pain.

A heel spur, also known as a calcaneal spur, is another common cause of severe heel pain. A heel spur develops when calcification occurs at the back of the heel bone. Not only does an individual experience pain while walking, but in most cases the calcification is sensitive to touch or any other friction against the heel. Surgery is usually required to resolve the issue.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a form of neuropathy where one of the symptoms is severe heel pain. A pinched nerve causes a number of symptoms, from numbness to pain. An individual may also feel electric shock type sensations or unnatural feelings of hot or cold in his or her feet. As this condition can cause fluid retention, it is advisable for suffers to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Treatment usually involves a variety of homeopathic remedies and some prescriptions medications; surgery is rarely used due to the risks of complications that may leave a patient in worse pain than before treatment.

Many long distance runners suffer from stress fractures. A stress fracture, also known as an incomplete fracture, can occur in any bone. A runner constantly putting stress on his or her heels can easily cause one of these hairline cracks to form. The pain involved ranges from mild to severe, always more intense during standing. Four to eight weeks rest and a cast or walking boot are the standard treatment.

Though the common causes of severe heel pain are not life threatening, an individual must consult with his or her doctor if certain signs become apparent. One of the most important is if heel pain persists while one is resting or sleeping. Another is if the pain does not resolve itself within a few days. One must seek medical attention as soon as possible if there are any physical changes such as discoloration along the back of the foot. Not allowing the condition to worsen raises the chances of a full recovery.

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