For those who have heel pain, every day can be a struggle. Getting out of bed in the morning and hobbling to the bathroom can be excruciating. You might be wanting to get back in shape, but running a marathon is a lofty goal when a walk around the block leaves your heels feeling like they’re on fire. If this experience rings true to you, chances are good that you’re dealing with chronic heel pain.
Frequently, a pain of this type does not resolve on its own, but it also doesn’t always require the serious prescription drugs that many people wish to avoid. Here are the five main causes of heel pain and what you can do – naturally – to stop it in its tracks.
Often thought of as an inevitability of age, arthritis sufferers deal with pain in their joints that can be seriously debilitating. The heel is one place that arthritis pain can pop up which can be particularly tough to deal with. People with flat feet are thought to be more prone to arthritis of the heel, but ankle injuries over the course of a lifetime can also damage the cartilage in the area and lead to post-traumatic arthritis.
Natural Treatment Recommendations: Because arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation, the best way to treat it naturally is by altering your diet. Fish, soy, healthy oils, cherries, broccoli, green tea, citrus fruit, whole grains, beans, garlic and most tree nuts are considered ideal foods for a patient suffering from arthritis. Daily stretching may also reduce pain and improve mobility.
An inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tissue that connects a foot from toe to heel, is considered the most common source of heel pain. It’s not uncommon in people who work on their feet or who walk or run frequently. If it seems like the pain is worst in the morning or after walks and runs rather than during, you’re not imagining things – the plantar fascia revert to their natural position when you are resting or sleeping, but resuming movement causes tiny, very painful tears in the tissue.
Natural Treatment Recommendations: Stretch your tendons by sitting with your legs out flat. Take a rolled up towel and place it around the ball of one heel, pulling the foot toward your body. Hold it for about half a minute, then do the other side. Another helpful activity is standard heel raises.
If you’ve gone gung ho with your workouts and are feeling a little more than the burn, you may be dealing with a stress fracture. These unpleasant injuries tend to pop up when one decides to suddenly take on exercise at a rate that is intense compared to what their body is accustomed to. The bones in the foot are tiny and the feet are the body’s primary shock absorbers, so it’s not a surprise that they’re one of the most common places for stress fractures to pop up.
Natural Treatment Recommendations: Sticking with foods that prevent inflammation(see: arthritis) can help to avoid stress fractures in their primary stages, but the best way to treat an existing stress fracture is by giving it the rest it needs to heal.
Atrophy of Fat Pad
You’re no doubt familiar with the fact that your heel is naturally covered in a layer of fat. As bipedal creatures, we are always on the move. This means that over time, the fat pad of our heels can wear down, removing the shock absorbent layer between the bone of the heel and the hard ground. It’s not an uncommon problem – in fact, it’s the second biggest cause of heel pain.
Natural Treatment Recommendations: Non-supportive footwear can be a major culprit in fat pad atrophy, which is why many recommend switching to shoes with an orthopedic lift and ditching painful heels or ballet flats that have no insole to speak of. Running on softer surfaces can help to nix the pain when working out.
Tendonitis of the Achilles
The Achilles heel came by its iconic metaphorical use honestly – it’s a very important part of human mobility, but when it’s injured, it can bring a quick stop to the whole production. In reality, the Achilles is a tendon that runs from your heel bone to your calf, allowing you to step. The tension in that tendon can work on its own or combine with plantar fasciitis to cause some very serious pain.
Natural Treatment Recommendations: Like plantar fasciitis, this uncomfortable issue is best relieved with stretches. Try the same calf raises and towel stretching that you would for PF. A heel lift can also be beneficial in alleviating the tension that causes pain within the tendon.
Suffering from heel pain can change the way you live your life. It can seriously limit the things you feel capable of doing. However. there are solutions for most major causes of heel pain that don’t require serious medical intervention, surgery or drugs. You may be surprised to find out how quickly your heel pain can resolve in response to dietary changes, rest when appropriate and healthy stretching.