As there are different reasons one may develop heel pain, including plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, Achilles tendinitis, and pediatric apophysitis, to name some of the more common causes, this blog will focus on the various at-home treatment options for pain related to plantar fasciitis. Specifically, these treatment options will focus on pain experienced on the bottom of the heel as well as in the arch of the foot. Read ahead to find conservative options that may help you with pain relief.
To start, most heel pain experienced on the bottom of the foot is a result of overuse of the plantar ligament on the bottom of the foot known as the plantar fascia. This area of the foot is commonly overworked as a result of lack of support, and or wearing shoes that fit inappropriately or have worn down. Over time, the ligament (where it attaches to the heel bone) develops small tears and becomes inflamed. In some cases this is very subtle however, if left untreated, the pain can snowball and worsen gradually over time. When left untreated the damaged tissue can begin to scar and become less resistant to basic treatment options such as new shoes or over-the-counter shoe inserts. A podiatrist can offer a variety of options tailored for you based on what type of pain you are experiencing and how it is affecting your lifestyle and daily activities.
Here are a few home treatment remedies that you can try before making a podiatrist appointment.
If you experience pain first thing in the morning, stretching with a stretch band can be very beneficial. Try three sets of 10-second holds where you place the stretch band under the ball of your foot and pull it towards you. If you can feel the stretch in the back of your leg, then you are doing the stretch properly. Once you get out of bed, try an additional two-part standing calf stretch.
First, put your foot against the wall at a 45° angle and your knee straight. Hold a stretch for 10 seconds and repeat three times. This stretch specifically focuses on the gastrocnemius muscles. Now repeat the stretch, however, do this with your knee bent. This stretch focuses on the soleus muscle. These two muscles combine and merge together to form the Achilles tendon that subsequently attaches to the back of the heel.
Tissue fibers from the Achilles tendon attachment continue around the heel bone (calcaneus) to meet up with the plantar fascial ligament on the bottom of the heel. As you stretch the muscles in the back of your leg, it will help alleviate the pressure on the bottom of your heel.
Finally, sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, use a trigger point massage ball, tennis ball, or golf ball to help perform a deep tissue manipulation of the plantar fascial ligament attachment. For some individuals, this can give immediate relief and can help stimulate your body to repair the damaged tissue.
In addition to the basic stretching and tissue manipulation techniques described above, consider utilizing simple gel compression sleeves, and or soft cushion gel heel lifts to give additional cushion to the planter heel. For some individuals, these simple podiatry supplies can give significant pain relief. Additionally, foot and ankle kinesiology therapy tape can also aid in pain relief and improved function. Therapy tape acts like a splint on the foot, as it helps to hold and stabilize the plantar fascial ligament in place. This reduces excess tension and overuse of the plantar ligament. Additionally, the therapy tape also applies localized compression to the plantar heel, which helps to further reduce pain and inflammation by redistributing pressure off the injured soft tissue.
The above suggestions are simple yet effective strategies to help at home with persistent heel pain on the bottom of the heel. For some individuals, the above home exercises and the use of basic podiatrist-recommended foot and ankle supplies can significantly reduce problems associated with plantar fasciitis without the need for more aggressive treatment. If you have tried the above suggestions and continue to have persistent pain, consider our next blog on additional conservative options for pain plantar fasciitis.