Heel pain can be debilitating. It leaves many dreading that first step out from their bed in the morning, the sharp ache when standing after a nice rest, and for some, even all-day agony from home, to work, and back again.
Heel pain is a serious problem – and treating it should be taken just as seriously. At Cartwright Podiatry we’ve always prided ourselves on delivering the best care for heel pain in the region. We do this by regularly checking our treatment protocols against the research and what is considered ‘best practice’ in medicine. So we were surprised when we read a review of the best practice management of heel pain that came out a few months back that analysed 51 trials around treating heel pain. Surprised… in the best way.
The three top management strategies for heel pain? We offer and use all three of them as our own best-practice for heel pain for our patients. Here’s what they are and how they help your heel pain.
Sports Taping, Stretches & Education
Completing daily stretches, using sports tape to control the movement of the foot, and getting ample information about what has caused your specific heel pain and the why’s, how’s, do’s and don’t is an absolute essential to effective heel pain treatment. Specifically:
- Taping – by applying sports tape in a specific way to help to hold the foot in a position that reduces strain on tissues spanning the arch of the foot (namely the plantar fascia), and limits the movement of the foot, works to effectively help reduce pain in the short-term.
- Stretching – heel pain is often linked to tightness in the plantar fascia tissue, the Achilles tendon, or both. By actively stretching and lengthening the tissues, the strain on the painful area is reduced, so pain is reduced and comfort is improved.
- Education – while education comes in many forms, the key is to provide understanding and insight into why the pain and injury has occurred, what may aggravate or ease the symptoms, the importance of good footwear, and how to look after the heel to both assist treatment now, and prevent it coming back in the future.
While shockwave is a well-established and effective treatment that is loved by many due to its effect on a variety of pains and problems, there are few local clinics that offer it. For us, we knew getting the best outcomes for our community meant bringing shockwave to our clinic and expanding our selection of world-class offerings.
Shockwave therapy involves using a handpiece that is positioned against the heel by a podiatrist, which then emits acoustic pressure waves to the affected area. This accelerates tissue and bone healing, thereby reducing painful symptoms, aiding healthy recovery, and getting you out of pain and back into healthy living.
Shockwave is clinically proven to:
- Reduce pain – by creating an anaesthetic effect on the nerve fibres, shockwave helps to block pain signals
- Stimulate the formation of new blood vessels – shockwave helps to promote the development of new blood vessels to the area, meaning more blood flow and faster healing and recovery for tissues and bones
- Stimulate metabolic activity – shockwave works on a cellular level to promote the release of substances that inhibit pain and inflammation, hence promoting healing and repair
- Reduce inflammation
- Facilitate the body’s healing and repair process in new injuries
- Reboot the healing process in longstanding conditions or injuries
- Stimulate the regeneration of tendons
- Reduce muscle spasticity
- Disintegrate tendon calcifications
In this review, shockwave continually delivered positive effects on a person’s ongoing heel pain with few side effects. One comment left in the review included that “patients with heel pain that have shockwave therapy tend to have less pain on review than the patients that don’t have shockwave therapy.”
Last but not least, the review found significant evidence for using custom foot orthotics (unlike with ‘sham’ orthotics – like the ones available from the supermarket or pharmacy) for pain in the short term, working to unload the tissue beneath the heel for relief.
To further explain the difference between the two, when we say ‘sham’ orthotics, we mean those rubbery or cushioned insoles that come pre-made in a packet, and are all the same shape, just varying in size with small, medium and large options. These ‘orthotics’ are just cushioning footbeds that do not consider a person’s injury, unique foot characteristics or specific needs. While many label these as ‘orthotics’, they are very different to the ones we prescribe in our clinic. Our custom foot orthotics are carefully prescribed and designed by experienced podiatrists after a comprehensive consultation and gait analysis. They are made uniquely to your feet, using specific reliable and long-lasting materials, with years of knowledge and experience behind them.
Custom foot orthotics also serve as a long-term tool to help stop your heel pain from returning. They do this by keeping your feet in an optimal position that reduces the likelihood of overuse and strain.
Which Heel Pain Treatment Is Best For Me?
Most often, it will be a combination of two to three of the treatments we’ve mentioned that will help you get the best result for your heel pain – but very honestly, this depends entirely on your level of injury, your symptoms, and your goals. Your podiatrist will discuss all your options at your appointment, including the one they believe will be best for you.
Don’t Be Held Back By Heel Pain
When you’ve been struggling with heel pain for so long, it’s easy to think that there’s no end in sight. In truth, heel pain is only present because there’s still damaged tissue that needs the right conditions for repair and recovery – and creating those conditions while keeping you moving is exactly what we do. Book your appointment with our team by calling 02 8405 6850 or book online.