Is It Normal to Wake Up with Heel Pain?

Feb 26, 2020

Here’s a scenario that plays out across millions of American bedrooms every morning, usually sometime between 5 and 7 a.m. Maybe you’re familiar with it.

After a hopefully long, hopefully restful slumber, you sit up, throw off the covers, turn your feet so they’re dangling just a few inches off the floor, then …

Wince. You know what’s coming.

As soon as you put that foot on the ground and load a bit of weight onto it, a sharp pain in your heel inevitably follows. And it may take several minutes of hobbling around as you try to get dressed or cook breakfast before you finally start to feel normal again.

What in the world is going on? This can’t be normal, right?

morning heel pain

What Is It?

Although we’d need to perform a complete evaluation before we can confirm any diagnosis, what we’ve just described is the classic symptom of a condition known as plantar fasciitis.

All along the bottom of your foot—from the base of your toes to the heels bone—you have a thick, fibrous band of tissue known as the plantar fascia. Its main function is to support the arch, and when things are going well it does this without issue.

But if the plantar fascia gets overstretched, inflamed, or torn, it can become quite painful. That pain tends to be concentrated right beneath the heel, where it connects to the heel bone.

Why Is the Pain So Bad in the Morning?

The obvious question, of course, is why heel pain should be worst in the early morning and not just all the time, or maybe during activity. Essentially, it has to do with how the plantar fascia responds to cycles of loadbearing and rest.

At nighttime, the plantar fascia rests and contracts, as do your calf muscles. This also can happen while you’re sitting at a desk all day, watching a move—any situation where you aren’t putting any weight on your feet for an extended period of time.

When you stand up again, all of a sudden the injured, contracted fascia has to deal with the full force of your body weight once again, and it just isn’t prepared to do so! Your injury is immediately re-aggravated, and it usually takes a couple of minutes for the fascia to loosen up to the point where the pain recedes to a dull ache.

Is This Really Normal?

It’s important to make a distinction here between something that is common versus something that is normal.

Plantar fasciitis, and its associated morning heel pain, is certainly very common. In fact, podiatrists across the United States treat more than 1 million cases of the condition each year—and that does not include potentially millions more who do not seek treatment.

But that does not make it normal—not even close! Morning heel pain isn’t just something that inevitably happens when you get older, or work certain jobs, or live a certain lifestyle. Heel pain is abnormal, and if you have it, you need to get help for it. Otherwise, it’s very likely that your pain will only become more frequent and more severe as time goes on.

why do my heels hurt

What Can I Do About It?

Here’s a bit of good news.

Even if you’ve been suffering from plantar fasciitis on and off for months or years, there is an excellent probability that, with conservative treatment options from Capital Podiatry Associates, you will be able to get rid of your morning heel pain for good.

That’s right—surgery is almost never required. Maybe 1 out of every 20 cases will reach that point. The other 19 times, we can help our patients clear up their plantar fasciitis without making a single incision.

But to do that, we first need to take a look at your feet and have a good conversation with you about your symptoms and your lifestyle. Plantar fasciitis can spring from several possible root causes, including faulty biomechanics, poor shoes, and your training or exercise routine. Figuring out which of these factors are responsible for your plantar fasciitis is how we personalize a treatment plan that will meet your needs most effectively.

That being said, most cases of plantar fasciitis respond well to very simple traditional remedies, including switching shoes, physical therapy, and wearing night splints. Theses splint keep your plantar fascia elongated while you sleep, so they don’t have to painfully stretch out again when you get up.

And if those simple treatments aren’t quite sufficient for a tougher case of heel pain, our office also provides much more advanced options, including custom orthotics and state-of-the-art MLS laser therapy for pain.

Take Your Mornings Back

You don’t have to dread the first step out of bed any longer.

For a thorough evaluation and treatment options that will actually work, contact Capital Podiatry Associates in Alexandria, VA today. You can request an appointment online, or give us a call directly at (703) 560-3773.

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