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Heel Pain: What if it’s Not Plantar Fasciitis?

Many of our patients here at Clifton Foot & Ankle Center in Centreville, Virginia come to us for treatment of plantar fasciitis. It’s the most common reason for heel pain. In fact, you may have heard people use the terms “heel pain” and “plantar fasciitis” interchangeably.

But plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the thick tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes – isn’t the only reason for heel pain. We can sometimes attribute heel pain to stress, pressure, an overuse injury, degeneration, or trauma to the heel and the surrounding area. Here are some examples:

  • A contusion – is another name for a bruise. A sudden blow or a hard fall can damage the soft tissue surrounding the calcaneus, or heel bone, causing pain underneath the heel
  • Achilles tendinitisinflammation of the Achilles tendon causes pain behind the heel
  • Bursitis – irritation of the retrocalcaneal bursa, a fluid-filled sac that provides protective cushioning and lubrication at the intersection of your Achilles tendon and your calcaneus
  • A fractured calcaneus bone – small cracks (stress fractures) or complete bone breaks aren’t uncommon in the heels of runners and other dedicated athletes
  • Arthritis – joint inflammation
  • Bone spurs – small outgrowths of bone that poke into the muscles or tissues of the heel area
  • Fat pad atrophy – deterioration of the heel’s protective layer of fat, which can happen with age
  • Nerve compression – a common complication in the heels of athletes, especially dancers

If a well-meaning friend tells you your heel pain is plantar fasciitis, they may be correct. But if your pain is intense, lasts more than a week, doesn’t respond to rest and pain medications, or is accompanied by fever, call our Fairfax County podiatry office at (703) 996-3000. Make an appointment for prompt, professional, caring treatment with our board-certified podiatrist, Kenneth R. Wilhelm, DPM, by phone or online.

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