TMH Living Well: Heel pain? It might be plantar fasciitis |

TMH Living Well: Heel pain? It might be plantar fasciitis

Stop for a second and appreciate your heels. It’s likely nothing you’ve ever done before, but heels are vital to keeping your body moving. Consider how your heels are responsible for carrying the weight of your body — that’s a lot of pressure! When you walk it’s estimated that you place 1.25 times your body weight on your heels, and more than double that when you run. It makes sense that your heels would be extra vulnerable to injury and damage. One common heel condition is plantar fasciitis.

There’s a large band of ligament that runs from your heel bone to each of your toes on the bottom of your foot. This connective tissue is called the plantar fascia. Several activities can cause it to become inflamed and painful. Plantar fasciitis affects nearly 3 million Americans each year.

“Plantar fasciitis sets in when someone overuses his or her heels, as with heavy sports training. It also occurs when people have flat feet or high arches, experience tight Achilles tendons, change shoes, wear poor quality shoes or gain weight,” said Dr. Derek Harper, Podiatrist with The Memorial Hospital.

A common sign of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain in your heel. It might be worse immediately upon rising in the morning or after long periods of sitting. The good news is that it’s usually fairly easy to treat and rarely requires surgery.

“Stretching is often the most effective treatment as 85 percent of people with plantar fasciitis feel better with stretching techniques 3 to 4 times a day,” Harper said.

He uses conservative solutions first, including orthotics, stretching and icing. Sometimes physical therapy can help.

“If surgery is needed it’s minimally invasive. An endoscopic plantar fasciotomy releases the ligament, allowing it to heal. Only a small number of people need surgery but those that have it are happy with it 90 percent of the time,” Harper said.

Because our heels carry our weight and spring us forward as we walk and run, they can take a beating. That’s why there are several causes of heel pain besides plantar fasciitis. Some are caused by stress fractures, bursitis, arthritis, gout and deterioration of the fat pad on the heel.

If you feel pain behind your heel rather than underneath it, it’s likely your Achilles tendon that’s acting up. The Achilles tendon runs along the back of your ankle and connects at the heel bone.

Harper has extra training beyond what is required in podiatry school to treat conditions of the rear foot, making him an expert on plantar fasciitis and other conditions that affect the heel, including complex foot and ankle conditions.

“My residency program included accreditations in rear foot and reconstructive surgery. I received all of the forefoot training as well, but I received extra training in rear foot conditions,” he said.

Harper recently joined The Memorial Hospital and is the sole podiatrist in the region. He sees patients at both TMH Medical Clinic and The Steamboat Specialty Clinic and resides in Craig. For an appointment, call 970-826-2465.

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