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Heel Pain

Heel Pain


Heel pain is discomfort in one or both heels.

What is going on in the body?

Heel pain occurs when the bones, muscles, or other soft tissues of the heel are inflamed or damaged.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some of the factors that can cause heel pain include:
  • plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the sole of the foot
  • a bruise from hitting the heel against a hard object
  • Achilles tendinitis, an inflammation of the Achilles tendon that runs down the back of the heel
  • gout, which is a disease that causes painful joints
  • inflammatory bursitis, which is a condition caused by the tendon rubbing on the back of a shoe
  • medial calcaneal neuroma, a condition in which the nerve on the inside and bottom of the heel becomes irritated and enlarged
  • a misshapen heel bone
  • rheumatoid arthritis, a severe form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, inflammation, and, sometimes, destruction of the joints
  • Reiter's syndrome, a type of arthritis that causes pain, swelling and redness in the joints
Very rarely, cancer involving the bone can cause heel pain.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

To prevent heel pain, one should avoid activities that can damage the heel. Also, one should choose footwear that is right for the activity being performed. For instance, it is helpful to wear a thick-soled boot when digging with a shovel and sturdy, supportive running shoes when jogging.


How is the condition diagnosed?

Sometimes a person who knows what activity is causing his or her pain and where it is coming from is able to diagnose the problem him- or herself. Some conditions are less obvious and will require the help of a healthcare professional, who can often make the diagnosis with a simple physical exam. Other times, X-rays or special studies, such as bone scans, computerized tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are needed. If the problem involves inflammation, a complete evaluation for the causes of arthritis may be necessary.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Most heel pain resolves quickly with treatment. But if the heel pain is an early sign of arthritis, it could eventually affect other parts of the body.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Heel pain is not contagious and poses no risk to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Treatment begins by protecting the affected area from further irritation. Other measures used to treat heel pain include the following:
  • anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (i.e., Advil, Motrin) or aspirin
  • ice packs
  • physical therapy
  • proper-fitting footwear

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Anti-inflammatory medications can cause stomach upset and allergic reactions.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

Heel pain from an acute injury usually clears up without further diffidculty. Heel pain chronic conditions such as gout or arthritis may require lifelong treatment.


How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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