If you’re getting pain at the bottom of your heel that feels terrible in the morning and when you stand up again after resting during the day, you may think that you have plantar fasciitis.
But there’s another muscle that follows a similar path to the plantar fascia - it’s called your abductor hallucis muscle - and it could be the real cause of your heel pain, and the reason your plantar fasciitis treatment isn’t working as well as it should be.
WHERE IS YOUR ABDUCTOR HALLUCIS AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
Your abductor hallucis (from hallux, meaning ‘big toe’) spans your arch, beginning at the inside aspect of your heel and attaching to the inner side of your big toe. It helps to move the big toe sideways (like when you splay your feet to grip onto the ground), supports your arch and foot with every step you take, and supports a massive amount of weight.
WHAT CAUSES ABDUCTOR HALLUCIS TENDINOPATHY?
The abductor hallucis can be stressed and strained in the same way as the fascia, which includes:
- Pronating - also known as your feet rolling inwards or having flat feet
- Suddenly increasing your physical activity duration or intensity
- Unsuitable footwear
- Sustaining trauma
Aside from pain, you may experience some numbness beneath your big toe or a deep muscle ache when you’re resting.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
If you’re worried or your pain isn’t settling, come in and have your feet checked by our knowledgeable podiatry team. While many treatment options for abductor hallucis tendinopathy overlap with treatment for plantar fasciitis, a significant difference is that because we are treating a muscle, rehabilitation needs to have a greater focus on strengthening the muscle back to its solid, strong state.
Correction and support using orthotics is good for relieving tension off the abductor hallucis while it recovers from the damage. If the muscle has become weakened, then it can be likely that your symptoms may return when the muscle is stressed to a similar extent again. Hence, intrinsic strengthening can be key to give the muscle back the strength it needs to adequately support the foot and fulfil its functions without incurring damage in the process.
Shockwave treatment is another tool we use in managing plantar heel pain. It uses waves of acoustic shock to work in rehabilitating the muscle and speeding up your recovery.
On top of that, our team are trained in various aspects of manual therapy such as dry needling that can be used to assist recovery and reduce the risk of re-injury.