Heel Pain & Injury

Heel Pain & Injury

Heel Pain

Heel pain and injury are extremely common. With accurate assessment and early treatment, most ankle and foot injuries respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy allowing you to quickly resume pain-free and normal activities of daily living.

Heel or Foot Pain?

You may not be aware that under the surface of your heel is a cushion of fat that protects your heel bone (calcaneus) from the impact stresses of walking, running, jumping and landing. Heel pain is a very common foot complaint and may involve injury to the bone, fat pad, ligaments, tendons or muscles.

Common heel injuries include plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, fat pad injuries and Sever’s disease. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the ligament that runs the length of the foot, commonly caused by overstretching, flat feet or muscle weakness. It results in pain under the heel, particularly after rest or when walking and running.

heel spur is a bony growth where the plantar fascia inserts into your heel bone. It is the result of chronic plantar fasciitis or delayed healing that causes the bone to grow within the ligament.

The fat pad is normally injured by repeated landing trauma and can occasionally be a precursor to a stress fracture of the heel bone.

Sever’s disease is caused by stress on the growth plate in the heel bone and is common in active 8 to 13-year-olds.

Anyone can suffer from heel pain, but certain groups seem to be at increased risk, including:

  • Middle-aged men and women
  • Active people eg running sports
  • People who are very overweight
  • Children aged between 8 and 13 years
  • Pregnant women
  • People who stand for long periods of time

What Commonly Causes Heel Pain?

Some of the many causes of heel pain can include:

  • Abnormal walking style (such as rolling the feet inwards)
  • Obesity
  • Ill-fitting shoes eg narrow toe, worn out shoes
  • Standing, running or jumping on hard surfaces
  • Recent changes in exercise program
  • Heel trauma eg. stress fractures
  • Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa)
  • Health disorders, including diabetes and arthritis.

How is Heel Pain Treated?

Most heel pain is caused by a combination of poor biomechanics, or muscle weakness or tightness. The good news is that heel pain can be effectively managed once the cause is identified.

Most heel pain can be successfully treated via:

If you feel that your footwear or your sports training schedule is potentially causing your heel pain, then we recommend that you seek the advice of a sports physiotherapist, sports podiatrist or a highly-trained footwear specialist (not just a shop assistant) to see if your shoe is a match for your foot; or discuss your training regime to see if you are doing too much.

Heel pain and injury are extremely common. With accurate assessment and early treatment, most ankle and foot injuries respond extremely quickly to physiotherapy allowing you to quickly resume pain-free and normal activities of daily living.

For specific guidance regarding your heel condition, please seek the advice of your trusted healthcare practitioner.

FAQs about Heel Pain & Injury

Why Do Physiotherapists Prescribe You Exercises?

The prescription of exercise appropriate to you and your injury or fitness level is one of the many professional skills of a physiotherapist. Whether you have suffered an acute injury, chronic deconditioning or are recovering from surgery, the correct exercise prescription is essential. That's why your physiotherapist's knowledge and skills will personalise your exercise dose. Your physiotherapist not only is educated in injury diagnosis but also exercise physiology or the science of exercise. This training enables your physiotherapist to assess and diagnose your injury, plus also to prescribe injury, fitness or age-appropriate activities targeted to you now.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Your exercises shouldn't be painful. Please take caution with some overzealous exercise prescribers who believe that the more painful the activity, the better. Thus simply isn't true—notably, the frail, immunosuppressed, deconditioned or post-operative person. You'll find that your physiotherapist will thoroughly examine you and prescribe a series of exercises suitable for you in quantities that will not injure you further. Please seek an exercise expert, such as your physiotherapist, when you are planning your rehabilitation.

What Happens When You Stop Exercises?

Without some simple exercises, we know that specific muscles can become weak. When these supporting muscles are weak, your injured structures are inadequately supported and predispose you to linger symptoms or further injury. You can also over-activate adjacent muscles that may lead to further damage. It is also essential to understand that even if you are "in good shape", you may have crucial but weak localised or stability muscles. When you have an injury, you should perform specific exercises that specifically strengthen the muscles around your injury and the adjacent joints. Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle function and prescribe the right exercises specific for your needs. The exercises prescribed will usually be relatively simple, and do not require any special weights equipment, and can be performed safely at home.

Would You Stop Your Daily Prescription Drugs?

Your physiotherapist will prescribe your individualised dose or exercises. They are using their professional expertise to optimise your exercise dose. Would you just stop taking your regular blood pressure medication because you were too busy or didn't think it was working? We would hope not! Exercise, when prescribed by an expert such as your physiotherapist, should be treated as your recommended dose. Just like when you don't take your blood pressure medication, you can't expect the drugs to work of you don't take it as prescribed by your health professional. So, next time you skip your "exercise dose" just remember that you are not putting your health first. If you have any questions, please contact your Physio Works physiotherapist for your best care.

Private Health Insurance Rebates

PhysioWorks Physiotherapy and Remedial Massage are more affordable than you think. Your Private Health Insurance (PHI) usually pays for the majority of your treatment fees, leaving you with only a small gap payment.

However, Private Health Funds do vary their rebates payable depending upon the level of cover that you have taken. Some funds have kept up with the costs of modern medicine whereas, sadly others haven't, with rebates similar to what they were a decade ago.

HICAPS - Instant Health Fund Claims


Most health funds are members of the HICAPS instant claims system.  Swipe your health insurance card at our reception counter, and you can instantly claim your physiotherapy treatment via our online Hicaps System. Remedial Massage is claimable via Hicaps for some but not all funds. For more information, please visit Hicaps for the latest funds which can use their instant claiming system.

Private health insurance rebates are available for all of our physiotherapists. Instant claims are possible via our in-practice Hicaps system.

Third-Party Insurers

PhysioWorks practitioners are registered providers for government, Workcover and insurance companies including:

  • Workcover
  • InjuryNet
  • Australia Post; Coles Myer; Woolworths
  • Medicare
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • CTP & Sports Insurers
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