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Heel Pain

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. In fact, the condition is one of the most common causes of all foot pain, accounting for “11 to 15 percent of all foot symptoms requiring professional care among adults,” according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Phoenix sports medicine physicians with St. Luke’s Medical Center evaluate, diagnose and treat heel pain in athletes and non-athletes alike. To find a Phoenix sports medicine doctor near you, call 1-877-351-WELL.

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. The plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band of tissue on the bottom of the foot, which connects the toes to the heel bone. If left untreated, the pain may worsen, developing into chronic pain and inflammation of the heel (“plantar fasciosis”).

What causes heel pain?

In patients with plantar fasciitis, heel pain is caused when excess stress is repetitively placed on the plantar fascia. While the plantar fascia is meant to absorb shock and hold tension in the foot, too much stress or impact can cause tiny tears in the tissue. Running with bad form or improper footwear can lead to this problem. Other risk factors include obesity, high arches, tight calf muscles, and new or increased physical activity (e.g. faster pace or longer distances in your run).

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain near the heel
  • Pain on the bottom of the foot
  • Pain that occurs after exercise – but not during exercise
  • “Start-up pain” in the morning or after a long period off your feet

How is heel pain diagnosed at St. Luke’s Medical Center?

Your Phoenix sports medicine physician at St. Luke’s Medical Center may begin evaluating your heel pain by looking for signs of limited mobility, high arches, tenderness on the bottom of the foot, and by asking you about your symptoms. If a diagnostic imaging test is necessary, your physician may refer you for an x-ray or MRI at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

What treatment options are available for heel pain?

First-line therapies typically include anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers, physical therapy and orthotic devices – some of which may be worn at night, others that may be worn during the day to help with weight distribution.

At St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix, your sports medicine physician may use regenerative medicine to restore the plantar fascia. With regenerative medicine, the pain is not “covered up” or masked with drugs and other therapies; rather, the damaged tissues are actually repaired, helping you get back to the activities you love. Two forms of regenerative medicine available through St. Luke’s Medical Center are described below:

  • Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections. Using this therapy, your Phoenix sports med doctor withdraws a small amount of your blood. Blood is placed in a centrifuge, which separates the blood platelets and plasma from the red blood cells. The platelet/plasma mixture is then injected into the damaged tissue (with ultrasound guidance); the platelet-rich plasma attracts growth factors to the damaged tissue to promote fast healing.
  • Amniotic Membrane Stem Cell Injections. With this therapy, stem cells harvested from the amniotic sac are injected into the torn plantar fascia. Stem cells may promote accelerated healing of the torn plantar fascia. This therapy is very safe; because stem cells used for this procedure are harvested from an immunoprivileged site, there is no risk of patient rejection.

Find a Sports Medicine Physician in Phoenix, AZ

To schedule an appointment with a board-certified sports medicine physician in Phoenix, call St. Luke’s Medical Center at 1-877-351-WELL. Plantar fasciitis affects approximately two million patients per year. If heel pain is keeping you from the activities you enjoy, you owe it to yourself to have your symptoms evaluated. Call today!


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