Heel Pain: Not Always Plantar Fasciitis

Published Monday January 16, 2017

People will often use the word plantar fasciitis interchangeably with heel pain.  Although this may not always be the case as heel pain can be due to other causes such as tarsal tunnel syndrome.

The tarsal tunnel is a space along the inside of your ankle where nerves, tendons and blood vessels traverse through a small “tunnel” in your ankle.

Pain stemming from tarsal tunnel usually feels like numbness, burning, sharp, shooting and/or tingling sensation on the bottom of the foot. This is a result of the nerve that is going through the tarsal tunnel getting compressed or irritated.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome can occur due to space occupying soft tissue lesions such as tumors, trauma, extra bone growth, enlarged veins (varicosities) and biomechanical deformities. Other contributing factors may be repeatedly performing the same motion in the feet (repetitive stress), just like carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist.

Treatment consists of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, injections, addressing the biomechanical deformity with orthotics. Some cases of tarsal tunnel with severe symptoms that are not responding to conservative treatment may require surgery. The surgery is done to decompress the nerve within the tarsal tunnel and/or to remove any space-occupying lesion if present.

If you are suffering from heel pain, make sure to be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist so it can be treated appropriately. Remember, not all heel pain is plantar fasciitis.

 

Dr. Hetal Kathrotiya-Mago

This piece was written by Hetal Kathrotiya-Mago, DPM

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