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Published on November 01, 2016

Heel pain: You can't just 'walk it off'

heel pain

Is that a rock in the heel of your shoe? No, it's probably plantar fasciitis, a common condition that can affect people of all ages and lifestyles.

Plantar fasciitis is aggravation and inflammation of the connective tissue – fascia – joining the heel bone to the major structures of your foot. As the tissue is misused, it can start tearing away. The result is pain that can range from mild to debilitating.

Craig Sullivan, DPM

Gundersen Prairie du Chien podiatrist Craig Sullivan, DPM, says if it were up to him, everyone would wear quality running shoes with arch support—all the time.

"And going barefoot is forbidden," says Dr. Sullivan. "Nothing will bring you into our office quicker than flipflops or going barefoot. You can go barefoot, as long as you're asleep or underwater."

Dr. Sullivan says foot pain, especially plantar fasciitis, is really no laughing matter, but it is something that most of us can avoid.

Classic signs include:

  • Onset of pain in the bottom of the heel
  • Heel pain after inactivity, such as when you get up in the morning or step out of your car

As the blood circulates and the muscles stretch, pain might subside, but only temporarily.

Dr. Sullivan and his colleague, Greg Valkosky, DPM, see patients at Gundersen Prairie du Chien Clinic and are based at Gundersen Decorah Clinic. For many of their podiatric patients, there are four conservative steps they recommend to help ease a patient's pain.

  1. Stretching exercises, especially the tight muscles in the back of the leg/calves
  2. Taking anti-inflammatory medicine such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  3. Footwear: "Get a great pair of running shoes and staple them to your feet until you feel better," Dr. Sullivan jokes.
  4. Use an orthotic shoe insert to support your arches. Gundersen podiatrists can provide high quality over-the-counter inserts at competitive prices. Our podiatrists can also custom-make inserts.

If these measures aren't providing pain relief, Dr. Sullivan says next stages can include physical therapy, wearing a night splint, cortical steroid injections, immobilizing the foot and (rarely) surgical intervention to lengthen the ligament so it isn't pulling away the muscle.

All these treatments are conveniently available through the Gundersen Prairie du Chien Clinic.

"We'd be happy to see you in the clinic," says Dr. Sullivan. "We'd be even happier to see you wearing a good pair of shoes."

To stay a step ahead of your foot pain, make your appointment with one of our Gundersen podiatrists at a location near you. Gundersen also provides podiatry services at the Gundersen Viroqua Clinic and Gundersen Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinic.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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