Heel pain can be a really crippling problem at all ages and especially for adult males. I have recently had an email from a 60 year old man complaining of heel pain.
He described “sharp shooting pains in the left heel area. Usually when it comes under tension – even slightly, say from bending at the waist – or on impact – even the slightest.”
He went on to explain the pain as “odd, insignificant, but very sharp when it occurs.” He had only become aware of the pain in the past few days and said that the only change of habits was that he had started doing quite a lot of swimming. He didn’t indicate that he had had any injury.
My first thoughts were a series of questions:
– “Do you have any lower back pain?
– “How strong are your abdominal muscles?”
– “Does it come on spontaneously when sitting in the car or at the computer?”
– “Do you have any residual joint damage from sports injuries or osteo-arthritis?”
Shooting pains like this are usually associated with nerve entrapment, pinching, or tight muscles like the hamstrings. At this age, osteoarthritis of the spine is a common cause. However, in this case, I suggested that the pain could be associated with the new range of movement since he started swimming.
Treatment for heel pain, begins with trying to find the cause, including the possible underlying cause at this age of being overweight, with a protruding belly! Not so in this case. Bearing in mind that this was an email communication and the symptoms were clearly described, I suggested the following:
A few days later, the gentleman diagnosed the problem as tension-related. He actually tried a rather risky move – “I can provoke sustained pain by crouching and then arching my back to put the whole back, rear leg muscles under tension.”
Luckily he was able to get up from this position, not call the Fire Brigade to lift him up and take him to hospital!
There is no apparent foot problem of pronation or flat feet, so it does sound like a nerve – related problem.
Then out of the blue, another man of similar age visited the practice with similar symptoms. By me moving the foot into certain positions that stretched his lower back, I was able to reproduce the burning, shooting and tingling pains he complained of.
Doing some research on heel pain reveals many causes; nerve entrapment is one of the more difficult to diagnose.