For many of our patients, heel pain is devastating in a number of ways. Aside from that sharp, shooting first-step pain and the aches that follow, having heel pain is severely limiting, affecting our ability to walk, work, look after the kids, exercise - and generally live our lives the way we want to.
With heel pain being one of the conditions we are known best for and that our podiatrists see and treat on a daily basis, ensuring we're doing everything we can to help you relieve your heel pain as effectively and quickly as possible is vital. More than just relieving painful symptoms, we also address the problems or circumstances that led to your heel pain developing in the first place, to help prevent it from recurring.
And the great news? According to a study published last year that reviewed and analysed over 50 trials that treated heel pain to see what worked best - we have ALL the boxes ticked, offering our patients the top three treatments that offer the best results - and our protocol is using them all together. Here's a look into what these treatments are, how they work, and how you can get rid of your heel pain for good.
1. Strapping Your Foot, Stretching & Getting All The Information
Firstly, it was found that strapping your injured foot, performing daily stretches, and being educated on everything you need to know about your heel pain, what has caused it for you specifically, and how to best care for your feet during your recovery and beyond, is vital in successfully treating heel pain and helping to keep it gone.
Stretching: Plantar Fascia & Achilles Tendon
The goal of stretching is to target two key areas: the plantar fascia tissue that spans the bottom of the foot, and the Achilles tendon that runs down the back of the lower leg and attaches to the back of the heel. Tightness in both of these structures is often linked to heel pain, so gently and regularly stretching them can help reduce pain, improve comfort and optimise the conditions needed for healing and repair.
Stretching is commonly prescribed with our heel pain treatment plans, with our podiatrists showing you the specific stretches you'll need to do. Don't worry - these aren't complicated, but are simple stretches that should be performed daily.
Strapping The Foot
Strapping was shown to reduce the initial heel pain, which can help improve patient confidence - and their quality of life. Strapping is used to help control the movement of the foot and its tissues, holding the foot in a position that reduces strain on the plantar fascia. Strapping is also used to help predict how well foot orthotics would work, which are another component of the best-practice guidelines.
Our podiatrists apply strapping at your first heel pain appointment with us, teaching you how it's done, and can reapply at subsequent appointments. We often use a low-dye strapping technique, which was noted as beneficial in the studies.
Education On The How's, Why's, Do's & Don'ts
They say knowledge is power - and having all of the information about why your injury has occurred, what caused it, and what it all means, empowers you to help make the best decisions for your feet throughout your recovery - and beyond. Across the studies, education wasn't tested as a standalone treatment, but together with the other treatment components. Understanding why the injury occured, specifically, was key in helping make the best decisions to help resolve heel pain now, and prevent it recurring in the future. The information provided also included how to reduce stress and load on the feet, how to best manage pain when it arises and how to make the best footwear decisions.
Here at South Burnett Podiatry, ensuring you are fully informed about what's going on and have all your questions answered is essential to our care for you.
Shockwave treatment is a key service offered by our team, with few other clinics offering it in the wider region. Shockwave is a well-established and effective treatment that has proven its effectiveness in helping treat numerous foot and leg pains and problems.
Don't be deterred by the name - there are no electrical shocks or intense pain. Instead, a hand-held device is positioned against your heel by our podiatrists, which then emits acoustic pressure waves to the affected area. This happens in very quick pulses that generally last 2-3 minutes per round, with 2-3 total rounds required in one shockwave treatment session. In the studies, patients undergoing shockwave therapy were found to have less heel pain when reviewed, compared to those that didn't have this treatment.
Shockwave accelerates tissue and bone healing which reduces painful symptoms (sometimes immediately), aids tissue repair, and helps get you out of pain and back to doing the things you love.
3. Foot Orthotics (Insoles)
The studies also found strong evidence that using custom foot orthotics (unlike 'sham' orthotics - like the ones available from the supermarket or pharmacy) were beneficial in helping manage heel pain initially, especially for those that needed to be on their feet all day.
To further explain the difference between the two, when we say 'sham' orthotics, we note that the word 'orthotics' are used in the same way that 'glasses' are used to refer to both prescription glasses from the optometrist as well as the glasses you can get for a few dollars at the supermarket. Same name but a very different product.
'Sham' orthotics refer to the pre-made packet insoles that presume that all feet are the same without considering a person's injury, unique foot characteristics or specific needs. Usually, these just help cushion the feet. Comparatively, our custom foot orthotics are carefully prescribed and designed by our experienced podiatrists after a comprehensive consultation and gait analysis. They are made uniquely to your feet, using specific reliable and long lasting materials, with years of knowledge and experience behind them.
Treating Heel Pain: What's Best For You?
While these three treatments have shown strong results in studies, the answer to what's best for your heel pain can only be determined after a comprehensive assessment of your feet and legs by our podiatry team. The causes of heel pain can vary greatly - so everyone needs a unique approach that considers the events that led to their specific pain developing. If indicated and appropriate, we often use the combination of all three treatments together for best results.
Get Your Heel Pain Sorted Today
While heel pain doesn't go away overnight, you can get significant relief even after your first treatment, and start the journey back to pain-free living. If you've got heel pain, we're here to help. Book your appointment by giving our friendly team a call on (07) 4162 7633.