Everything you need to know about Plantar Fasciitis
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It supports the arch of your foot and helps you walk.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common orthopedic complaints. Your plantar fascia ligaments experience a lot of wear and tear in your daily life. Normally, these ligaments act as shock absorbers, supporting the arch of the foot. Too much pressure on your feet can damage or tear the ligaments; the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, and the inflammation causes heel pain and stiffness.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
The major complaint of those with plantar fasciitis is pain on the bottom of the heel. But some people experience pain at the bottom mid-foot area. This develops gradually over time. It usually affects just one foot, but it can affect both feet. Some people describe the pain as dull, while others experience a sharp pain. Some people feel a burning or ache on the bottom of the foot extending outward from the heel.
The pain is usually worse in the morning when you take your first steps out of bed, or if you’ve been sitting or lying down for a while. Climbing stairs can be very difficult due to heel stiffness.
After prolonged activity, the pain can flare up due to increased inflammation. Pain isn’t usually felt during the activity but rather just after stopping.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
You’re at a greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis if you’re overweight or obese. This is due to the increased pressure on your plantar fascia ligaments, especially if you have sudden weight gain. Women who are pregnant often experience bouts of plantar fasciitis, particularly during late pregnancy.
If you’re a long-distance runner, you may be more likely to develop plantar fascia problems. You’re also at risk if you have a very active job that involves being on your feet often, such as working in a factory or being a restaurant server. Active men and women between the ages of 40 and 70 are at the highest risk for developing plantar fasciitis. It’s also slightly more common in women than men.
If you have structural foot problems, such as very high arches or very flat feet, you may develop plantar fasciitis. Tight Achilles tendons, which are the tendons attaching your calf muscles to your heels, may also result in plantar fascia pain. Simply wearing shoes with soft soles and poor arch support can also result in plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis isn’t typically the result of heel spurs. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone, or calcaneus, of the foot.
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to check for tenderness in your foot and the exact location of the pain to make sure that it’s not the result of a different foot problem. Your doctor may ask you to flex your foot while they push on the plantar fascia to see if the pain gets worse as you flex and better as you point your toe. They’ll also note if you have mild redness or swelling.
Your doctor will evaluate the strength of your muscles and the health of your nerves by checking your:
- muscle tone
- sense of touch and sight
An X-ray or an MRI scan may be necessary to check that nothing else is causing your heel pain, such as a bone fracture.
Braces and supports
Night splints are another treatment that can help stretch your calf and the arch of your foot. Night splints are a type of brace that holds your foot in a flexed position and lengthens the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon overnight. This can prevent morning pain and stiffness.
Special orthotics, or arch supports, for your shoes may help alleviate some of the pain by distributing pressure, and they can prevent further damage to the plantar fascia. A boot cast may immobilize your foot and reduce strain while the plantar fascia heals. You can remove the boot cast, which looks like a ski boot, for bathing.
For more information on equipment that can help with plantar fasciitis and heel pain, check out the PCA Independence Store.