What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition where the band of tissue (plantar fascia) that connects the heel to the toes becomes inflamed. This causes a stabbing foot pain, usually in the bottom of the heel or the midfoot area (the bottom of your foot). About 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis at some point during their lives.
What can cause plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is often caused by a strain injury that causes micro-tears to the ligament as it attaches to the heel bone or other areas of tightness on the sole. Several factors can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
- Particular occupations:Factory workers, teachers, and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage the plantar fascia.
- Specific exercises:Running, ballet, and plyometrics or jump training are examples of high-impact activities that put a lot of strain on your heel and connected tissue and can hasten the development of plantar fasciitis.
- Feet mechanics:The structure of one’s foot, such as having flat feet or a high arch, along with irregular gait patterns can influence the distribution of weight when standing, adding further strain on the plantar fascia.
- Improper footwear:Shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
- Obesity:Excess pounds put additional stress on your plantar fascia.
- Age:People between the ages of 40 and 60 are commonly affected.
It’s also worth noting that plantar fasciitis isn’t caused by heel spurs. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus) and is associated with plantar fasciitis, but it doesn’t cause the pain associated with the condition.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, and how is it diagnosed?
Plantar fasciitis presents primarily as a pain situated in the bottom of the heel—which can either be a sharp, stabbing sensation or a deep ache—and tends to follow specific patterns. It is usually at its peak within the first few steps after waking up or following long periods of inactivity or sitting. While you may feel some pain during exercise, the severity often escalates immediately afterward, rather than during the physical activity itself. Extended periods of standing can also exacerbate the discomfort.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination to check for tenderness in your foot and the precise location of the pain to make sure there’s no other foot issue causing it. They might also ask you to flex your foot and push on the plantar fascia to see if the pain worsens as you flex. Diagnostic imaging tests aren’t usually needed but may be needed to rule out other issues.
What are the treatment and aftercare options for plantar fasciitis?
Stretching, massage exercises, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications are the mainstays of treatment for plantar fasciitis. Walking discomfort can be reduced with silicone heel cups and padded inserts, and morning pain may be lessened with night splints. Some patients benefit from physical therapy and, occasionally, injections, though these carry risks and are limited in use. Endoscopic surgery may be considered in extremely rare, non-responsive instances.
Specific exercises, such as plantar fascia and calf stretches, are crucial and must be performed at least three times daily. Despite the long healing process and the possibility of recurring symptoms, over 90% of patients show improvement through perseverance.
From agony to recovery
At Texas Orthopaedic Associates, we understand the distress and discomfort that plantar fasciitis can cause. Reach out to our team of experts to discuss your symptoms and let us help guide you towards the best path of treatment.