By Rehan Iqbal
Have you ever woken up in the morning with excruciating pain in your feet? More specifically, your heels, as soon as your feet touch the floor in the morning? For those who have, the problem can be incredibly frustrating.
Foot pain, in general, is demoralizing, as it has an intense effect on nearly every move you make. Intense foot pain every morning for seemingly no apparent reason is worse, as there seems to be no culprit, meaning there's no way to search for relief.
However, the answer could be much simpler than you think. If you've ever suffered chronic morning heel pain, you might want to read this until the end. You just might find the answers you've been looking for.
Why Does the Heel Pain In the Morning?
You're probably wondering why your heels hurt so badly in the morning. Theoretically, shouldn't your feet feel better in the morning after you've had a long night of rest and been OFF your feet? One would think. However, unfortunately, the body is a complicated collection of intricate muscular and skeletal groups that don't take much to irritate. Your body has three primary types of connective tissue:
At the bottom of your foot, extending from your heel to your toes, is a large section of connective tissue that gives your feet most of their range of motion. This section is known as the plantar fascia.
The Plantar Fascia
The plantar fascia consists primarily of collagen and plays a pivotal role in your feet' actions, including distributing the weight of your frame as you walk over an extended area. Two of the most important roles the fascia plantar plays are providing support for the arches in your feet and powering you forward as you walk or run.
This tissue stretches like a rubber band and stores energy when it supports weight. Through this action, your feet are protected from the impact of the forces your feet sustain as it supports the weight of your body. As you push off into another step, the stored energy snaps like a rubber band releasing, making your forward movement more fluid.
The problem is that your plantar fascia sustains a lot of damage, and the possibility of overstretching this tissue is fairly high. This tissue degenerates when it becomes overstressed without sufficient healing time, causing extreme pain and swelling. This condition is referred to as Plantar Fasciitis.
Guess where the brunt of the pain is felt? That's right - your heel, where the heel bone connects with the plantar fascia. But why is it specifically in the morning?
Prevalent Morning Heel Pain
So why doesn't this tissue hurt all the time? Again, theoretically, shouldn't it hurt more when it's bearing weight? Not exactly.
When you're resting this tissue, the swollen plantar fascia decreases in size, contracting like a rubber band in the cold. This causes it to shorten in overall length. It's the same concept of not warming up a muscle before engaging in an activity - the muscles haven't been worked, so they're tight and not as prone to flexibility.
When the foot bears weight after you've been sleeping, this heavy load causes a sudden irritation to the plantar fascia. Essentially, you're overstretching the tissue, which in turn re-insures it, causing intense pain. However, after several minutes, the majority of the pain subsides.
One of the most common remedies for this condition is the application of night splints. These keep the tissues in your feet stretched slightly, helping you to avoid that initial painful shock in the morning. But why does it happen to you and not everyone?
Why Do I Experience This Condition?
The cause of injury to the plantar fascia is usually extremely simple. It becomes a matter of not resting on this area enough, and after overusing it without rest, the result is the pain you feel in the morning. However, a few more specific causes could potentially drive this heel pain. The following actions are the most common causes of pain from Plantar Fasciitis:
Additional Causes of Morning Foot Pain
Although pain in the plantar fascia is often the most common source of foot pain, several additional conditions may also be the driving force behind the discomfort. Consider the following potential causes before you assume the pain stems from challenges with the plantar fascia.
Your Achilles tendon is a large tissue section connecting your calf muscle to your heel. Like the plantar fascia, this tendon easily becomes inflamed, leading to intense pain and discomfort.
However, there's one primary difference between the pain of the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon. When the Achilles tendon is irritated enough without ample healing time, it normally turns into a case of Achilles tendonitis. When this happens, the pain isn't limited to just the morning hours.
Excruciating pain will stay with you all day - although the morning can be the most painful time of the day. The reason for the heightened AM pain of Achilles tendonitis is the fact that while you rest, blood flow to this area is limited.
When muscles don't receive proper circulation, it's difficult for them to stay lubricated, making it difficult for them to function and stretch properly. This can lead to tearing, cramping, and other painful conditions.
Foot pain is often one of the first symptoms in someone with RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and causes multiple side effects as a result. Intense pain in the heel is the most common symptom, followed by swelling of the feet that leads to nerve pain.
RA causes your body to attack and destroy the lining of your joints. This lining, known as synovium, becomes thicker after long periods of inflammation. This leads to bone and cartilage degenerating, leaving bone-to-bone friction. In addition, RA attacks the synovial fluid, leaving your joints without lubrication during movement.
Potential Solutions for Morning Foot Pain
Luckily, there are multiple pain-relieving actions one can take to experience relief from plantar fascia challenges. Consider trying any of the following:
Pain from the plantar fascia is extremely demoralizing, but it's not the end of the world. Try the relief methods listed above to see if this provides any assistance. If the pain continues or worsens, consult your physician regarding further treatment.