There could be lots of things that make your eyes water. The bright sunlight bothers them, or you could be allergic to an ingredient in your cosmetics, or you just finished watching “Titanic” for the third time and it still leaves you crying. In the same way, morning heel pain can be caused by a variety of problems, but the most common of them is plantar fasciitis.
The Reason for Your Pain
Your heel bone (calcaneus) is the one that bears most of your weight when standing, and the part of the foot you land on first when walking. That’s a lot of pressure in the course of the day!
Plantar fasciitis also involves the fascia—the tissue that attaches it to the toe bones. This ligament lies along the bottom (plantar) part of the foot and expands and contracts with each step you take. When you suddenly start a new activity like running, or spend long hours on your feet without rest, the fibers of the fascia can become overstretched and start to fray. This can lead to pain and inflammation as your body rushes extra white blood cells to the tissue to repair it.
Why Your Heel Hurts More in the Morning
At night while you are sleeping, the damage to the plantar fascia begins to heal. However, since your feet are usually pointed down while at rest, the fascia and the Achilles tendon tighten up. These tissues are both attached to the heel bone, so when you first put weight on your feet again, the tight ligament and tendon don’t expand easily and the fascia can tear again. The connecting tissues also pull against the surface of the bone where they attach, and the pain is immediate and severe.
Stretching and Icing Can Help Plantar Fasciitis
Many people find that just taking a few minutes to do some stretches when they wake up can help reduce the pain of those first steps of the day.
While still lying down, flex your toes up towards your shins and hold that pose for a count of 30. Then sit on the edge of the bed with one ankle on the other knee, and use your hands to gently pull the toes back and massage the fascia under your arch. Repeat with the other foot.
We can show you other stretches to do throughout the day to ease tension in your Achilles tendon and calf muscles. Also, icing the area a few times a day with a cloth covered ice pack can help numb the pain and reduce inflammation.
Other Treatments for Heel Pain
There are several remedies we can try to relieve your pain. Since the condition is often related to an abnormality in your foot arch (flat feet or high arches), sometimes just wearing better shoes can reduce the tension on the plantar fascia. We also offer custom orthotics that can help rebalance the pressure on your arch structure with better support. These are medical devices that slip in your regular shoes and are custom designed to fit your specialized needs.
Sometimes ultrasound, massage, physical therapy, or pain medications may also be prescribed. As a last resort, a surgical option may be a solution if nothing else is relieving your discomfort and allowing you to do normal activities.
Plantar Fasciitis Care in East Bay
If your pain is chronic, is not getting better with home care, or is accompanied by swelling, redness, or warmth in the tissues, be sure to contact Yuko Miyazaki, DPM for an evaluation. Sometimes what you think may be fasciitis could actually be a stress fracture of the calcaneus, or a bone spur may have developed that is irritating the tissues around it.
We’ll provide expert diagnosis and recommend the best treatment for your situation at our office in Berkeley, CA. Reach us by phone at (510) 647-3744, or contact us online to schedule your appointment, and put your morning heel pain behind you.