Your Heel Pain Game Plan (for COVID-19)

Apr 16, 2020

We’ll just come out and say it: It’s a weird time to be suffering from heel pain.

Unfortunately, foot and ankle issues don’t pay attention to the news, and they don’t follow executive orders. And heel pain can still make you miserable even if you aren’t able to get out of the house as much as you’d like to.

But the tricky question, in an age of coronavirus, is this—what do you do about your heel pain? Does it qualify as “essential” or “nonessential” under the current rules? When is it smart or not smart to leave your home to seek help?

Those are all extremely normal and reasonable questions. And we’re here to help you answer them. First, though, you need to understand something important:

Pain Is Always an Urgent Problem

It is true that, during the stay-at-home order, the state of Illinois is recommending that “routine” or “elective” medical appointments be postponed.

However, pain is never routine! If you have persistent or significant heel pain, it’s a clear sign that something is wrong, will probably get worse, and needs corrective action as soon as possible.

Although heel pain might not seem like as much of an “emergency” as something like a traumatic ankle sprain or an infected ingrown toenail, we do take it very seriously—and you should too. And if you do need to have an in-person treatment administered to overcome it, that is essential, and we can help you.

So if you have heel pain, you should take action, even in the age of COVID-19. The next question, though, is this: what action should you take?

Blog Graphic Lockwood 2020_04_15 HeelPain

Dealing with Heel Pain at Home

If your heel pain developed recently or is mild-to-moderate in severity, it’s possible that you’ll be able to find substantial (or even total) relief through simple home strategies. And even if your heel pain is more chronic and severe, these tips can still help a lot!

Here are a few simple steps that may help. If your heel pain isn’t (yet) to the point where it’s severely limiting your activities or mobility, please feel free to try these first:

  • Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Always use as directed.
  • Rest your feet as much as possible for a couple of days. Prop them up when you sit or lie down.
  • Avoid spending most of the day barefoot, especially if you have lots of hard floors in your home. If you aren’t leaving your house much due to the coronavirus, you might not be spending much time in shoes, either. Losing that daily source of arch support and cushioning can easily aggravate your heels, especially if you have a related biomechanical issue such as flat arches.
  • Stretch and exercise your feet regularly. Just like any other part of your body, feet and heels need some activity to remain healthy and resistant to aches, pains, and injuries. This blog has some great suggestions on daily stretches to incorporate. You could also try using a towel as a resistance band—wrap it around the ball of your feet, then pull gently but firmly on the ends of the towel with both hands to feel the stretch. You don’t even have to get out of bed for that one!
  • Switch up your recreational activities. During the COVID-19 crisis, many of our patients have started (or restarted) running programs in part to help motivate them to get out of the house and get some fresh air. That’s great! However, doing too much too soon, or engaging in high-impact exercise every day, can also result in heel pain. If running is causing pain, dial back on the intensity and substitute some lower-impact exercise (cycling, walking, etc.) so you aren’t running long distances every day.
  • Replace your shoes. If your shoes don’t fit, are worn out, or aren’t the correct style for your activity, they should be replaced. This one’s tricky right now, since many retailers are either closed or only offering online orders or curbside pickup, limiting your ability to try before you buy. Normally we’d never recommend online shoe shopping since getting the right fit is so crucial, but under the circumstances it may make the most sense. Just make sure the store has a good return policy!

Flexible and Safe Treatment Options for Professional Care

Unfortunately, your heel pain may not fully respond to measures undertaken at home. In that case, we really do recommend that you get help from the team at Heartland Foot & Ankle. As we said, heel pain is an urgent problem, especially if it’s limiting your day-to-day activities and enjoyment of life.

That said, we understand that you may still feel nervous or unsure about seeking professional care, especially if you or someone you live with is at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

Well, don’t fear! As the needs of our patients evolve, so do the methods of care we can provide. You may be interested in:

  • Telemedicine. Although we obviously can’t provide direct treatment to you over video chat, this is an excellent option if you just want to talk to an expert and get our analysis and recommendations about your pain. Often, just by talking with you about your symptoms and experience, we can arrive at a likely diagnosis and give you more specific home care recommendations tailored to your situation.
  • Home visits. We are making home visits for patients who are concerned about leaving the house, as long as they have not traveled, shown symptoms, or been exposed to a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case within the last 30 days.

And if we do recommend an in-office visit, particularly for a specific treatment (such as laser therapy or an injection), we want to make sure you know we are taking every possible precaution to protect you and your family. Extra rounds of sanitization, enforced social distancing, use of surgical masks and gloves, and other measures that meet or exceed CDC guidelines are being strictly observed.

If home care isn’t working and you’re looking to take the next step—even if it’s just a phone call to help find some answers—please contact our office today. You can use our contact form or call us directly at (309) 661-9975.