Plantar fasciitis refers to the pain that results when the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, or plantar fascia, becomes inflamed from overstretching or overuse. Because the plantar fascia connects the heel bone to the toes, most patients experience stiffness and soreness in the heel and arch of the foot. If you believe you may be suffering from plantar fasciitis, read more about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of this common ailment.
- Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
- Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
- Plantar Fasciitis vs. Heel Spur
- Plantar Fasciitis Treatments
- Non-surgical Treatments For Plantar Fasciitis
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is seen in both men and women, but most commonly affects men between the ages of 40 and 70. The plantar fascia may become inflamed by naturally flat feet or high arches, long-distance running, sudden weight gain or obesity, or shoes with poor arch support or soft soles.
1. Overstretching of the Plantar Fascia
Activities such as excessive running, jumping, and playing sports can put extra strain on the plantar fascia and increase the chances of developing Plantar Fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs from your heel bone to the ball of your foot, supporting the arch of the foot along the way. Overstretching the plantar fascia can lead to inflammation and pain in the heel area.
2. Poorly Fitted Shoes
Wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate arch support or that fit too tightly can place strain on the plantar fascia, leading to plantar fasciitis. Having improper footwear can also lead to an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Wearing shoes that are too old or not providing enough cushioning or arch support can lead to excess strain on the plantar fascia.
3. Age and Repetitive Activity
Age can take a toll on the body, and the same is true for the plantar fascia. With age, the plantar fascia begins to weaken and becomes more prone to injury and inflammation. The more active you are and the older you get, the more likely you are to develop plantar fasciitis. Running, jumping, and other high-impact activities can put stress on the tissue of your foot and eventually cause inflammation.
Carrying extra weight can make you more prone to plantar fasciitis due to the extra strain placed on the feet. People who have sedentary lifestyles are more likely to suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, as their weakened calf and foot muscles lack the strength to support normal functioning.
5. Structural Foot Abnormalities
One of the most common causes of Plantar Fasciitis is having flat feet or high arches, which can cause poor foot mechanics. When someone has flat feet the plantar fascia is overstretched, leading to inflammation and pain in the foot.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
Most patients report a dull or sharp pain in the bottom of the heel or a burning sensation in the bottom of the foot. Pain is usually worse in the morning, after extended periods of standing or sitting, when climbing stairs, or after athletic activity. If you are currently experiencing any symptoms of plantar fasciitis, schedule a physical exam with your podiatrist. Your doctor will test the affected area for swelling and redness and will also be able to rule out other medical issues.
Pain after Exercise
Exercise can bring about mild discomfort from plantar fasciitis. As the condition progresses, this pain may turn into a sharp stinging or stabbing sensation. Don’t ignore these symptoms; instead, seek help from a medical professional sooner than later.
The pain of plantar fasciitis can be sharp and intense near the heel area. Generally, the discomfort is most noticeable when you first stand up after a period of inactivity – such as when you get out of bed in the morning or after sitting for an extended time.
Stiff, Tender, Swollen
As plantar fasciitis continues to go unaddressed, you may find that your foot area becomes stiff, tender, and perhaps even swollen. This is likely to be most noticeable when you first wake up or after sitting for long periods of time. To minimize discomfort, it is important to begin stretches and exercises designed to target the afflicted area as soon as possible.
Plantar Fasciitis vs. Heel Spur
The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis, which is irritation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot. While some confusion exists between plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, there are clear distinctions between the two.
Heel spurs are bony protrusions formed when calcium deposits collect in certain areas of the heel, sometimes causing inflammation and pain. On the other hand, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissues, not the bony tissues. Additionally, heel spurs can occur without any associated pain, while plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue becomes inflamed and causes pain. Treatment of these two maladies can vary, so it’s important to accurately diagnose the issue prior to seeking treatment.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatments
If you have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, your podiatrist may recommend a comprehensive treatment plan involving over-the-counter painkillers, heel and stretching exercises, rest, and supportive shoes. You may also be advised to apply ice to the affected area or use special night splints to stretch the foot as you sleep. If the pain persists, your doctor may recommend custom-made shoe inserts or a boot cast.
The prognosis for plantar fasciitis is generally very positive: an easy-to-follow treatment course usually improves the pain. If you live in Austin and have experienced symptoms of plantar fasciitis, call Austin Podiatrists or visit one of our highly trained doctors.
Non-surgical Treatments For Plantar Fasciitis
From gentle stretching exercises to supportive orthotics, there are a number of non-invasive treatments available for those suffering from plantar fasciitis. Physical therapy, night splints, and steroid injections are among the treatments commonly used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with this condition.
Stretching is the most common treatment for plantar fasciitis and can be used to effectively reduce tension in the plantar fascia, calf muscles, and Achilles tendon. Physical therapy exercises should be prescribed by a physical therapist to ensure the best possible results.
Utilizing a night splint can help to stretch your calf muscles and Achilles tendon (in addition to the plantar fascia) while you sleep. Night splints provide an excellent complement to physical therapy as they help you continue to stretch your plantar fascia in the privacy of your home.
Orthotics are custom-made inserts designed to help redistribute pressure, offer arch support, and reduce inflammation of the plantar fascia. Orthotics should be selected based on whether you have high or flat arches.
Steroid injections can reduce severe inflammation and thereby reduce or eliminate the associated pain. Due to their potency, steroid injections should be limited to one injection as multiple doses may weaken or damage your plantar fascia.