If a prominent, bony lump appears at the back of your heal you may have Haglund’s deformity. This uncomfortable condition makes it tricky to find footwear that fits correctly. On its own the condition isn’t dangerous, but it is painful and if left untreated will lead to other problems.
Fortunately, a podiatrist can help. Here are some things to look out for.
What Are the Symptoms?
A bony lump at the back of your heel is a sign of Haglund’s deformity and it can occur in either foot. The lump is situated at the spot where the Achilles tendon is attached to the heel. The whole area is likely to be tender and swollen; indeed the pain can be quite severe. You’ll also notice a redness covering the entire area.
As the Achilles tendon is part of the affected area, it can also become inflamed and swollen. The deformity may also lead to bursitis – a painful inflammation of the bursa (fluid-filled sacs) in the heel and tendon.
How Does Haglund’s Deformity Occur?
The condition arises when there is constant pressure and friction on the heel bone. The resulting inflammation stimulates calcium build up in the bone and surrounding soft tissues. This causes the bone to enlarge which leads to further pain and irritation.
The problem can be due to something as simple as poorly fitting shoes – for example, if they are too tight around the heel. Not surprisingly, the condition is more common with ladies who wear pump-style high heels.
However, this issue isn’t limited to the fashion-conscious. Any repeated activity that puts a lot of pressure on the feet can cause problems. Running, hiking, weight gain, injury or poor posture can all lead to Haglund’s deformity.
Are You at Risk?
Certain factors can make this condition more likely to occur. Some people are simply born with more prominent heel bones but in many instances, there are specific factors. High arches (the area from the toes to the heel) or a tight Achilles tendon are two conditions that can lead to problems in this area.
Your walking style is also important; if your feet tend to roll outwards when you walk (supination) this can make you susceptible. Hereditary factors play a part as well – the bone structure of your feet can make conditions such as Haglund’s more likely.
How Is It Treated?
Treatment methods depend on the reason for the condition, but it’s vital to reduce pressure on the heel bone and relieve pain, whatever the cause. Surgery may be needed to physically reduce the bone mass from your heel but generally this is only necessary for extreme cases.
Your podiatrist can offer several effective, non-invasive measures to deal with Haglund’s deformity. Anti-inflammatory medicine, icing and ultrasound treatment can all reduce the swelling and ease the pain. Custom-made orthotics, heel pads and padded socks will protect and cushion the feet, whilst stretching exercises will help to ease the Achilles tendon and keep it in a healthy condition.
Your posture and gait (walking style) may be a factor so your podiatrist can carry out a biomechanical assessment (depending on your particular issues). This analyses the movement of your muscles, joints and bones to identify where abnormal pressure is being applied. And if you’re not sure which style of shoes is best for you, we can help with that as well.
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