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Ice for Heel Pain

Topic Overview

Treating the first symptoms of plantar fasciitis with rest and ice can help prevent your heel pain from becoming long-lasting (chronic). This treatment is less successful after the problem has become chronic.

Ice your heel when you have pain, to control the inflammation associated with overactivity or high stress on the plantar fascia. There are a number of ways to do this. Your doctor may have suggestions on what works best.

  • Ice massage. You can use an ice cube, but it's easier to use an "ice cup" for ice massage.
    • To make an ice cup, fill a small paper or foam cup about two-thirds full, and freeze it until it is solid.
    • To use the ice cup, peel off the top of the cup so about 0.5 in. (1.3 cm) of ice is showing. The remaining part of the cup is for you to hold on to.
    • Rub the ice in small circles all over the painful area. As the ice melts, it will drip, so put a small towel under the area you are icing.
    • If the ice melts down so the cup is touching your skin, peel more of the cup off.
    • Continue for about 7 to 10 minutes. The area will feel cold at first, then it may burn, then ache, then finally become numb. Your skin will be pink and cold when you finish.
    • You can do an ice massage several times a day if it helps you.
  • Cold or ice packs. There are several types of ice packs. Use them for about 10 to 20 minutes, then put them back in the freezer to refreeze for the next use.
    • Ice towel. Wet a towel with cold water and squeeze it until it is just damp. Fold the towel, place it in a plastic bag, and freeze it for 15 minutes. Remove the towel from the bag and place it on the injured or sore area.
    • Ice pack. Put about 1 lb (0.5 kg) of ice in a plastic bag or ice pack you buy at the store. Add enough water to barely cover the ice. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it. Wrap the bag in a wet towel and apply to the affected area.
    • Cold packs. Bags of frozen peas or corn are inexpensive, last 10 to 20 minutes, and mold well to your body. Mark them with "do not eat" and you can reuse them several times as cold packs. You can also seal a mixture of 3 cups (750 mL) water and 1 cup (250 mL) rubbing alcohol in a freezer bag and freeze it until a slush forms. Refreeze the bag when the slush melts. Or you can buy cold packs to keep in your freezer. These can be reused many times.
    • Ice bottle. Fill a plastic water bottle about 3/4 full and put it in the freezer. To use, lay the bottle on its side in front of your chair. Put your foot on the bottle and roll it forward and back several times. This will massage the bottom of your foot as you use the ice. Press more firmly if you want a deeper massage. When you finish, put the bottle back in the freezer to refreeze.
  • Ice bath. You also can soak your foot in ice water for up to about 20 minutes, adding more ice cubes as others melt. You can repeat icing 4 to 6 times a day, particularly after any activity that causes pain or any exercise that you are doing instead of running.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Gavin W.G. Chalmers, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
Current as of June 4, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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