heel-pain-plantar-fasciitis-symptoms-causes-treatment

Plantar Fasciitis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.  It occurs when the tissue at the bottom of your foot (plantar fascia) that connects your heel bone to your toes becomes inflamed.

plantar-fasciitis-foot-diagram

Plantar Fasciitis usually causes stabbing pain when you take your first steps in the morning.  As you become more mobile throughout the day, the pain tends to decrease but it may return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting.

Plantar Fasciitis commonly occurs in runners.   If you are overweight or you wear shoes with inadequate support, you also have an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

  • Stabbing pain on the bottom of your foot (near the heel)
  • The pain is much worse when you start walking after sleeping or resting
  • Pain at the bottom of your foot after long periods of standing
  • Stabbing pain near the heel after exercise (not during it)
  • The pain feels better during exercise, but returns after resting
  • Difficulty raising your toes off the floor

Plantar Fasciitis Causes

In a normal foot, the part of your foot that connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia) acts like a shock absorber, supporting the arch in your foot.  If tension and stress on the tissue become too great, small tears can occur in the fascia.  Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated and/or inflamed.

Who’s at risk?

  • Plantar Fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Certain types of exercise can make you more prone to plantar fasciitis. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel can contribute to an earlier onset of this condition.  These include: long-distance running, ballistics jumping activities, ballet dancing and aerobic dance.
  • Abnormal foot arch.  If you are flat footed or have a high arch, you are more likely to distribute your weight abnormally when standing or being active, thereby putting added stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Abnormal pattern of walking also causes uneven weight distribution during exercise and standing, making you more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
  • Obesity.  Excess weight puts extra stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Occupations that keep you on your feet.   Individuals most at risk include teachers, factory workers, nurses and anyone who spends most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces.

If left untreated, plantar fasciitis may result in chronic heel pain that hinders your day-to-day life.  Sufferers tend to unconsciously change the way they walk to minimise plantar fasciitis pain, but this often results in musculoskeletal problems such as knee and hip conditions.

See an AA Musculoskeletal Specialist

Podiatrist Appointment Walk-through and Diagnosis

A plantar fasciitis diagnosis is made based on your medical history and a physical examination.  During your appointment, your AA Podiatrist will check for areas of tenderness on your foot.  Where your pain is situated will help your podiatrist determine its cause.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Most plantar fasciitis sufferers recover with resting, icing the painful area and stretching it for several months.

Medication

Your AA Podiatrist may prescribe you with pain relievers such as ibuprofen to ease the pain and inflammation associated with this condition.

Physical Therapy

Stretching and strengthening exercises or use of special devices can provide you with symptom relief.  These include:

  • Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist can prescribe you with a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.  An AA-approved physical therapist will also provide you with the right set of exercises to strengthen your lower leg muscles.  This will stabilize your ankle and heel when walking, standing and exercising to reduce fascia inflammation.
  • Night splints: Your AA Podiatrist may recommend you wear a splint that stretched your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep.  This will hold the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight, facilitating stretching.
Plantar-Fasciitis-Night-Splint-Sock
A night splint sock worn by a plantar fasciitis sufferer to treat the condition by stretching the affected tissue.
  • Orthotics: Depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis, your AA Podiatrist may refer you to their in-house MSK specialist for custom-fitted arch support (orthotics) to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly.
msk-custom-orthotics
Custom orthotics can support your arch and facilitate an even distribution of weight while walking, standing and exercising.

Surgical Procedures

When more conservative treatments aren’t working after several months, your AA Podiatrist may recommend any of the following:

  • Injections: The injection of steroids to the tender area can provide temporary pain relief.  Multiple steroids injections are not recommended as they can weaken your plantar fascia and cause it to rapture.
  • Tenex procedure:  This is a minimally invasive procedure that removes the scar tissue of plantar fasciitis without surgery.
  • Surgery:  Few sufferers require surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone.  It’s only an option when the pain is severe and all other treatment methods have failed.  Surgery side effects include weakening of the foot arch.

If you’re suffering from persistent heel pain and would like an AA Podiatrist to assess you for plantar fasciitis and suggest an appropriate treatment, book your consultation today.

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