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Debilitating heel pain - Advice please


I've often read this forum but never actually posted, it seems it contains a wealth of first-hand knowledge about chronic pain - whatever the exact cause.

Back in 2003 I had a discectomy to relieve the sciatica symptoms caused by DDD in my lumbar spine (I'd suffered for about 15 years before the surgery). All was really good until 2006 when the pain became unbearable again, this time I had a fusion at L5/S1, again, I was lucky that I recovered relatively well and the pain reduced by about 80% most of the time.

Then in 2009 I had what I thought was plantar fasciitis in both feet but it soon developed into something worse, to cut a long story short it is now very debilitating, I can not walk at all without pain and the pain is there 24/7, just slightly better if I don't walk anywhere. I'm obsessed with sitting down! After about 5 mins of walking the pain is about 8/10 and stays that way for hours afterwards. My feet and calf muscles also become very weak.

Like everyone here it affects every waking moment of my life and worse still, it affects my family. It's frustrating for them and also difficult to watch me hobbling around all the time!

My real question is that I don't know if this is a problem in my feet or my back! They cannot find anything wrong with my feet but there is some epidural fibrosis affecting S1 on the left but I would have expected pain all the way down my left leg into my heel, not both heels and calf muscles.

Has anyone experienced chronic heel and foot pain but without the associated leg pains? That said, over the last month or so I a lot of pain has started in my lower back!

I'm off to see my original surgeon next week, if it is the fibrosis causing this does anyone know if there is any treatment available? I'm not sure I can go on forever with this pain as it is getting worse all the time.

Sorry to whine about it but I'm sure you guys understand more than anyone how distressing it is to be in so much pain all the time. In my opinion it's something that is difficult to adjust to, everyday I treat it like I'm in pain for just that day, everyone can cope with one day but when it hits me that this might be permanent it's hard to not become depressed.

Thanks for reading.



  • Heel pain here. For a quick background, I fell and sprained my ankle badly March 2012. Have had ongoing foot/ankle issues. In January 2013 I had what I thought was plantar fasciitis - pain in my right heel was terrible, could barely walk. Podiatrist ordered an MRI and didn't see plantar fasciitis just some swelling and fluid remaining from ankle sprain. A couple of months later I had my first bout with back pain and was also diagnosed with foot drop. Had diskectomy and laminectomy. The foot drop and numbness/soreness in foot are only slightly better. Now yesterday, I woke with horrible plantar fasciitis-like symptoms again. When I get up from laying down or sitting, I can barely put any weight on my right foot. The pain in the heel is dibilitating. Will try to get back in with podiatrist this week. I truly think this is a foot thing not related to the back, but sugery was in May so it might be related nerve pain. Anyone else have this?
  • not quite the same, but yes you can definitely get heel pain without leg pain, all coming from the back. long story short, l5-s1 fusion a year ago. went in with sciatica in the back of my thigh and low back pain. woke up with those, but added in this horrible pain in my heel. no pain in my lower leg, and thigh really wasn't that bad. but if i moved the wrong way, it felt like someone was slicing a hot knife through my heel on my right foot. totally came from the nerve being poked during surgery. heel pain improved drastically over the next couple of months, still have some numbness, and occasional pain in the hell, but for the most part it doesn't bother me much anymore, and its been just over a year since the surgery.

    so in short, you can definitely have heel pain without any pain going all the way down your leg, and it can come from your back.
    Microdisectomy / hemi-laminectomy 6/2010 and revision 10/2010
    Cervical fusion C4-5 and C5-6 9/2011
    Lumbar Fusion L5-S1 6/2012
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  • Tran - Thanks so much for responding. It is great to hear from someone who is a year post-operation. It's been a little more than 2 months for me and it is really discouraging how slow the progress is. BTW - I am still skeptical and seeing the podiatrist in a couple days to see if maybe I have a bone spur in my heel or something. I will update after the appt.
  • you are having problems with, pain in the heel can most definately be caused by lower back pain and problems. There is a map called a dermatome map on Spine Health. In fact, it is my avatar. Certain parts of the body are innervated by each spinal level, and compression or damage to those spinal nerves will create pain, numbness, pins and needles, burning, etc in that area innervated by that spinal nerve.
    If you look at the map, and know the level of your spinal problems, you can see what areas of the body are innervated by the nerves at that level and compare them.
  • Had the podiatrist appointment. My heel pain was at the back of my heel and could be pinpointed to one particular spot. The doc gave me a cortisone shot in the heel (oh so painful!). He said that if the back was causing this pain, then the shot would not give me relief. Today, my pain is a little better. It seems like the cortisone shot is doing the trick. It looks like I have more than one thing going on here. My pain issues stem from a bad fall over a year ago where I sprained my ankle and hurt my back, so I believe this particular foot pain was related to the ankle/foot issue and not from the sciatic nerve.
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  • In addition to the possible spine issues or a podiatrist, certain types of arthritis can also cause debilitating heel pain when flaring, so if other things haven't worked, that is one more option to explore.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Thanks. The cortisone shot has helped some with the pain. I will ask the podiatrist about arthritis. Wondering how they test for that. I've had xrays and an MRI.
  • Pepperpot1808PPepperpot1808 Posts: 20
    edited 11/07/2013 - 8:30 PM
    I'm exhausted but happy to find people who are going through what I am - it's lonely when you don't know what's happening to your body! Disc fusion Feb. 22/10 L1-L3, then March 18/13 L1-5, S1, T11 (I don't know how to write it properly) because I was degenerating. Someone punctured my spinal cord, surgery May ? 2013 to insert a drain which broke and surgery June 27/13 to get the broken piece of drain without success, then two more months in hospital in Infectious Diseases with E. Coli and 4 other bacteria, discharged Aug. 25/13.

    I thought I would walk out of the hospital without pain. Boy, was I wrong! My right leg was paralyzed, my foot curled up into a fist, pain, pain, pain. Today is November 8, 2013 and I believe that what I have is plantar fasciitis - can't put my foot flat or walk without a walker. My surgeon wants me to see a podiatrist and I stubbornly want him to put a cast on the foot or do something so I can walk again! Wouldn't a podiatrist just tell me to ice my foot? Cortisone injections - forget it! If someone even touches my foot I jump up to the ceiling.

    So you guys say it's a foot problem, not a spine problem? Should I go see a podiatrist?

    And this abdominal swelling - I look pregnant and I barely eat. Water and apples. My belly keeps swelling along with the edema in my feet and ankles.

    I'm ready to slit my wrists. Any advice for me?
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 11/07/2013 - 8:48 PM
    I have been going to several doctors trying to find a ankle pain issue. Many test many injections then we found out it's a issue caused by scar tissue around the T8 area. Anything is possible. This has taken almost a year to find because it did not fit any textbook answer.
    I would guess and only guess that it has to do with the surgery you had not a foot issue.
    One foot doc wanted to just cut my foot and take a look. My answer was no way. They would numb my whole foot and I still had the pain meaning it was coming from above and not the foot. One last thought for the night. My dad went through a time he had foot drop. We got him some high top laced up wrestlers shows that help pull the foot up in place. Maybe worth a try.

    Good Luck
  • Hey Rick,

    I can't believe a doctor wanted to cut open your foot to look inside it! Or, no, let me amend that. I have seen some very strange things this past year, but that is one of the strangest.

    So your Dad wears high-tops! lol! I have several pairs which I love but right now I can't get my foot into shoes. I've ordered a pair of men's high-tops in a size larger than I would wear, and hopefully that would help.

    Thanks for the info, and best of luck to you.

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