Imagine walking around carrying an empty tray. The tray is light, so it doesn’t take much effort to carry it. Now imagine a tray that’s loaded with heavy dishes. Odds are you’ll get tired of carrying that tray pretty quickly. Weight-bearing parts of the body, strong as they are, can wear out and suffer injuries from being under that much pressure all the time. In your feet, this can leave you suffering from heel pain or arch pain.
How You Hurt Your Feet
Your feet have a lot of bones all working together. Your ankle, heel, tarsals, metatarsals, and toes all have specific roles to play. Two areas that bear the brunt of your bodyweight, and have to absorb much of the shock from striking the ground when you walk, are your heels and your arches. The large bone at the back of your foot (calcaneus) helps form a solid base for your lower limbs. Your arch is made of the tarsals, particularly where they meet and are attached to the metatarsals.
These structures are designed to handle heavy pounding and lots of pressure, but they can still be injured. There are two ways this happens: overuse or trauma. Overuse is a problem with repetitive pounding or pressure wearing down your foot. Unless your foot is taken care of, the structures take on damage over time and can eventually develop painful injuries. Trauma is a sudden, unpredictable and often unavoidable injury. This can happens if you trip and fall, get kicked, or are in a car accident. The sudden force damages your feet.
Behind Your Heel Pain
Pain in your heels can have many different causes. The most common source of pain underneath the bone is plantar fasciitis. This is a problem with inflammation and tightening in the ligament band that runs the length of your sole. Another cause could be stone bruise, which is a bruise in the fatty padding under your calcaneus. Usually this happens when you accidently step or land on something very hard. Stress fractures can create a slowly increasing pain in any part of your heel bone. Full breaks are immediately painful, though you might still be able to walk in a few cases.
Pain at the back of your heel can have several causes, too. Achilles tendinitis, which is irritation and stiffening in this main tendon, can pull on the back of the calcaneus and cause discomfort. You can also develop bursitis in the bursa sac between the bone and the Achilles. Haglund’s deformity is a hard bump that develops under pressure and friction, usually from stiff-backed shoes. Even pinched or compressed nerves can create discomfort in the back of your foot.
Arch Pain Contributors
A variety of problems can cause pain through the arches. The midfoot is made up of many bones and has plenty of supporting structures that hold it together. Injures to any of these can lead to discomfort. Flat feet is one common problem. Naturally flat arches, or a midfoot that “falls” from weak or injured tendons, may ache under strain. Tarsal coalition, which involves abnormal tissue growth between tarsal bones, may affect teens’ arches and create pain when they’re active. Many heel problems—particularly plantar fasciitis—actually affect the arch and cause discomfort there as well.
Dealing with the Discomfort
The good news is that you don’t have to learn to live with the pain. Feet aren’t supposed to be uncomfortable. Most heel pain and arch issues are treatable with conservative care. Our podiatrists at Martin Foot and Ankle will carefully examine your lower limbs to diagnose the exact cause. From there, we can look for any contributing factors, like biomechanical issues, and determine the best course for treatment. This may range from shoe changes and orthotics to physical therapy and medication. Only rarely do any of these conditions require surgery.
Keep in mind, heel and arch issues are not a normal state for the feet. They can be treated. Let Martin Foot and Ankle help. Call (717) 757-3537 to make an appointment at one of our podiatry offices in Lancaster, Lititz, York, or Hanover, PA. You can also use our website to reach us.