Elderly at Greater Risk for Heel Pain

If you have been waking up to stabbing pain near the heel of the foot, which lessens as you begin moving around, you may be suffering from Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis, heel pain which frequently occurs in runners, can also be a nagging problem for elderly people.  According to a recent study, published in the New York Times, older adults may be at greater risk for the condition because feet naturally widen and flatten with age, placing more stress on the fascia(ligament that connects heel bone to toes).  Age also results in a decrease in the fat padding on the feet which protects the heel bone.  Without the padding, additional stress is placed on the bone, causing pain.

In addition to age, other risk factors for include high arches, improper shoes, running on hard surfaces, flat feet or a sudden increase in training.  Weight gain also places added stress on the feet and can increase the likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis.  Foot pain is a major cause of disability among older women in particular, likely due to wearing high-heeled shoes.

Well padded shoes and proper foot care can help prevent further damage to the fat pad and help relieve discomfort.   Other treatments for plantar fasciitis include taking pain relievers that ease inflammation such as Motrin, Advil or Aleve and using an ice pack several times a day over the painful area.   A doctor may recommend stretching exercises or a night splint to keep the tendons in the foot and calf in a lengthened position.  In some cases, orthotics may be recommended to distribute weight on the feet more evenly.  Keeping feet warm at night with socks, resting and avoiding high heels, flip flops or going barefoot may also ease this painful condition.

Foot pain can be a symptom of other age-related conditions and diseases including arthritis, diabetes and some circulatory diseases.  It can also result in a decline in activity among seniors and can contribute to falls by impairing balance and function.  Talk with your doctor if you experience persistent foot pain.

To learn more about stretches you can do at home for plantar fasciitis, visit the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society at http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-heel/Pages/Plantar-Fasciitis.aspx .