What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a thick, rubber band-like ligament that connects your heel bone to the ball of your foot. It plays an important role in shock absorption and supporting the arch. When this area is repeatedly strained, it can lead to the development of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful foot condition where the plantar fascia tissue becomes inflamed and causes heel pain. Plantar fasciitis can develop due to the wear and tear that your ligaments experience throughout life. A lot of pressure on your feet can lead to damaged ligaments, pain, stiffness, and inflammation.
What Are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
The most common symptom found from plantar fasciitis is a sharp or stabbing pain at the bottom of the heel or the midfoot area. In some cases, you can experience plantar fasciitis in both feet. People will most often feel this pain when they step out of bed in the morning or after resting. The pain can subside once you get into the rhythm of walking around but can recur if you’re standing for prolonged periods. During activities, the pain may go away but return quickly after.
The symptoms can gradually increase over time and can often get triggered by trauma like missteps or jumping. Some may notice their Achilles tendon and calf muscles tighten when dealing with plantar fasciitis.
In some cases, heel spurs can form as a result of developing plantar fasciitis. A heel spur is a benign bony growth that appears under the heel. Heel spurs are formed when the bone is exposed to too much pressure.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Heel spurs were once thought to be the cause of pain for people dealing with plantar fasciitis. Instead, it develops as a result of overusing or overstretching the ligament and can cause tears and a significant amount of foot pain.
Many causes factor into the development of plantar fasciitis:
- High arches or flat feet
- Wearing shoes with little or no support for your feet
- Pregnant women often experience plantar fasciitis during late pregnancy.
- Exercising or working on hard surfaces
- Exercising without stretching your calf muscles
- Standing for long periods
- Running and jumping
- High-impact sports
How Is Plantar Fasciitis Diagnosed?
A physical exam may be required to check the tenderness and pain in your foot from plantar fasciitis. During the evaluation, your doctor may ask you to flex your foot as they push on the plantar fascia. Doing so will determine the pain level you are experiencing. They might also evaluate the area by checking:
- Muscle tone
- Sense of touch
Part of diagnosing plantar fasciitis is the process of elimination. There are many reasons why you could be experiencing foot pain. To get a better sense of what the particular problem is, your doctor may suggest some imaging tests, such as:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
- Bone scans
How Is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?
There are simple treatments that you can seek out to help reduce pain associated with plantar fasciitis:
Stretching & Strengthening
Performing gentle stretching and strengthening exercises can relieve pain when dealing with plantar fasciitis. These stretches will help loosen your muscles and reduce heel pain experienced with this condition.
Make sure to take time off from performing exercises and high-impact sports that involve running. Stick to low-impact sports that allow you to get your exercising in without creating more heel pain. These low-impact sports can include swimming, cycling, or rowing.
For stretches that involve the plantar fascia, use some props, such as a tennis ball or a chair.
Shock Wave Therapy
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment option that delivers high-energy sound waves to the affected area of the foot. These shockwaves trigger your body’s natural healing response so they can repair or reduce the pain of the plantar fascia.
Some side effects of this treatment can include:
If you’ve been experiencing chronic pain for 6 to 12 months, surgery may be a considered option. However, surgery is a last resort if all other treatment options don’t work.
The two surgical options for plantar fasciitis are:
- Gastrocnemius recession: This may be recommended if you’re having difficulty flexing your feet, even after stretching. The surgery involves lengthening the calf muscle for more mobility in the foot.
- Plantar fascia release: This surgery requires cutting part of the plantar fascia ligament to release some tension and inflammation.
- Stretching out your calf muscles
- Wearing supportive shoes that offer some cushioning and comfort
- Properly fitted custom orthotics to give you the support you need. Orthotics can reduce the stress on the plantar fascia so that it can heal.
- Over-the-counter insoles
- Massaging the affected area
- Icing the foot three or four times a day for 15 minutes
- Limiting physical activity or prolonged standing
- Using night splints to reduce tension or tightness in the calf muscle
- Using crutches to relieve pressure off your foot
- Losing weight
- Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Plantar Fasciitis?
There are certain factors associated with plantar fasciitis that make you more vulnerable to experiencing it:
Those factors include:
- Unsupportive footwear, such as flat shoes that don’t absorb shock or add any support for your arches
- High-impact sports, such as ballet, running, or high-intensity interval training. These exercises can put extra strain or stress on the plantar fascia.
- Occupations that require you to be on your feet for prolonged periods
- A heavy body mass
- High arches and flat feet
How Do I Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
There are different solutions you can consider when it comes to preventing plantar fasciitis and heel pain:
- Picking shoes that offer arch support and shock absorption
- Using the proper shoe inserts, like custom foot orthotics
- Avoiding high heels
- Replacing shoes that are worn down and ill-fitting
- Doing low-impact sports that don’t put too much pressure on your feet
- Regularly practicing stretching and strengthening exercises
- Icing your foot
- Taping your arches
- Getting plenty of rest
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
Any kind of foot pain can heavily impact your daily life. If you’re looking for some pain relief, make an appointment or visit our foot clinic today. We have a wide selection of services and products that will help alleviate your foot struggles.