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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often causes pain in the ball of the foot, but it can also affect the heel, making it painful to walk or get out of bed in the morning. Many members of myRAteam have plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects the heel and toes.
“It feels like hundreds of needles stabbing my foot and heel,” said one member. “It’s so painful, I can only walk wearing my special foot boot,” said another. “The pain was worse than labor or a toothache,” added one woman.
Treating RA Heel Pain
Luckily, plantar fasciitis is treatable. In 90 percent of people, heel pain improves significantly within 10 months of home treatment, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Home treatment includes:
Rest. Start the healing process by staying off your feet for a couple of weeks, and avoiding exercises or movements that cause pain. “Staying off my feet has really helped the plantar fasciitis,” said one member of myRAteam.
Ice. For temporary relief of foot and heel inflammation, experts recommend icing the area for 15-20 minutes, three-to-four times a day. Several members of myRAteam prefer to do “ice massages” - rolling a small bottle of frozen water under their feet.
Night splints. Designed to correct plantar fasciitis, this boot-like device keeps feet flexed and stretched during sleep. “The night splint helped cure my plantar fasciitis,” reported one member. “I wore it every night until a week after the pain stopped.”
Physical therapy and stretching. Stretching the fascia and Achilles tendon promotes flexibility and eases pain. A physical therapist can help identify exercises to help you.
One myRAteam member shared, “I must stretch my legs, ankles, and feet every morning” to avoid pain.
Supportive shoes or inserts. Wearing shoes with thick soles, cushioning, and arch supports can make it less painful to stand or walk. One myRAteam member wears New Balance shoes for plantar fasciitis. “They have wonderful arch support, and I have inserts that I use as needed,” he said. Another swears by Birkenstock sandals “on the days I’m in pain. They’re a godsend as they force my foot to have the proper support. I also have Birkenstock inserts for my shoes. I can't live without them.”
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen or naproxen sodium, can provide temporary pain relief. If those don’t reduce pain, some doctors will prescribe Tylenol 3 (Acetaminophen and Codeine). “It doesn't get rid of the pain but makes it more tolerable most of the time,” reported one member.
Members’ Remedies for RA Heel Pain
From Epsom salt soaks to magnesium supplements, members of myRAteam share the remedies that help them minimize – or relieve – pain.
Self-Massage. Many members say they loosen tight ligaments, tendons, and fascia by massaging their feet with their hands, thumbs, or various balls – golf, tennis, lacrosse, and dryer balls. One man even uses rolling pins. “Roll the affected foot along it, don't press hard. Do it a few times a day and pain will soon go away.”
Other members use therapeutic creams on their feet. “My husband gives me a foot massage every night with Muscle and Joint Vanishing Scent Gel,” said one. Another uses “Gold Bond Foot Cream nightly. It relaxes and stimulates blood flow to my feet,” she explained.
Toe separators: Separators or “yoga toe” socks can ease heel pain because they stretch muscles that don’t often move inside shoes. “I know it looks ridiculous...and I feel funny admitting I use them...but they make my feet feel sweet,” shared one man. Another woman replied, “I’ll hold off on toe splitters although they’d work great for a pedicure!!”
Magnesium: Some experts recommend taking magnesium to reduce plantar fasciitis pain. One member found relief after she “started taking magnesium and B complex supplements at night.” Another rubs a magnesium spray into his legs and feet before bedtime. “I’m not only sleeping better, but my legs and feet feel great.
Others members of myRAteam do hot Epsom salt baths. One even bounces on a mini trampoline (also called rebounding), to improve flow of lymphatic fluid in the body. “I'm a huge believer in getting lymph circulating for all kinds of health reasons. Maybe try a rebounder a little each day?” she suggested to another member.
Consult with your doctor before starting any new treatment for plantar fasciitis or heel pain. If pain becomes severe, a walking cast, corticosteroid injections, or surgery to release tension in the plantar fascia may be recommended.
On myRAeam, the social network and online support group for those living with RA, members talk about a range of personal experiences including heel pain.
Here are some conversations about heel pain:
Can you relate? Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to myRAteam today and start – or join – a conversation. You'll be surprised how many others share similar stories.
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