As we step through spring and head into summer, many people might be dealing with excruciating heel pain. Podiatrists say it's the number-one foot complaint among their patients. One local doctor says most people can stop the pain without surgery.
When 26-year-old Samuel Suppipat plays basketball, he feels a lot of heel and arch pain.
"It was getting to a point where I couldn't really play sports at all," said Suppipat.
Dr. Franklin Kase, a foot specialist at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, says if people knew what causes heel pain, or plantar fasciitis, they would know how to alleviate and prevent it.
The fascia is a band of tissue that runs from the Achilles tendon to the ball of the foot. It gets stressed when you walk on hard surfaces in non-supportive shoes.
"You get this inflammatory process developing right at the insertion of the plantar fascia to the bottom of the heel right here," said Kase.
And that's where most people feel the excruciating pain. Kase advises patients to wear shoes with solid heel support that bend at the front. And you shouldn't be able to twist it much.
"If you don't have that, what happens is you compensate by breaking down the midsection of your foot or you can develop pain in your knees as well," said Kase.
To alleviate pain, he recommends daily stretching of the Achilles tendon and the muscles on the bottom of the foot.
"Where they lift up their toes towards their body, towards their leg, right before they get out of bed in the morning, because a lot of people have heel pain and arch pain when they first step down," said Kase.
And long after an initial jolt of pain, Kase says ice can be healing.
"Whatever reduction in inflammation you can, achieve that's going to be beneficial," said Kase.
Invest in arch supports. If over-the-counter ones don't work, Kase strongly suggests people ask their podiatrist for a custom-made one.
"It's a lot better now since I've had the orthotics," said Suppipat. It's all working for Suppipat, whose heel pain is healing.
Kase says for severe plantar fasciitis, he has good success with acoustic shockwave therapy. It helps break up some of the scar tissue. He says surgery, where you actually have to cut the fascia, should be the last resort. And pain relievers just mask the symptoms.