Heel Pad Atrophy Basics

Daily Health Solutions, Healthy Living
on April 13, 2012

Heel pain is a common ailment for many people, especially athletes, those who are overweight or obese, and adults over 40. Heel pain can result from various causes, including heel pad atrophy. While heel pad atrophy is not listed as one of the most severe causes of heel pain, it represents chronic pain that may require a number of pain management measures and could get worse over time. There is no known sure prevention for heel pad atrophy, though a number of lifestyle considerations and natural pain management techniques may be effective in dealing with this condition.

Causes. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “The heel fat pad has a unique structure that is important for its shock-absorbing function. Loss of elasticity and changes in the thickness of the heel pad have been suggested as causes of heel pain.” As you age, many of your body’s tissues — including fat and skin — lose elasticity. The repetitive shock sustained by your heel pad can also wear down on it, reducing thickness and making it less effective as a shock absorber. If you are overweight or obese, this wear and tear may occur much earlier in life than if you are at a healthy weight.

Symptoms. Heel pad atrophy manifests itself as pain in the heel, which may radiate up into the ankle and calf. The pain will become more noticeable when you spend extended periods of time on your feet or if you walk on hard ground without properly supportive footwear. In many cases, heel pad atrophy symptoms may also be accompanied by other types of foot pain such as plantar fasciitis, which typically causes pain in the arch of your foot. Most types of heel and foot pain improve as your muscles have a chance to warm up and become more flexible, making early morning a common time to feel pain. Heel pad atrophy pain is chronic and will worsen over time if you do not make modifications to take excess stress off your heels. Though there is very little that can be done medically to reduce the symptoms, discuss home care options with your doctor to keep the pain from getting worse, especially if it interferes with your daily activities.