Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory process that occurs on the base of the foot affecting the connective tissue. It is very painful and usually occurs as a result of overuse of the foot’s arch tendon or plantar fascia. If it is not treated properly, it can be very difficult to treat. It is a common condition that affects 10% of people in the United States over a lifetime, and occurs in almost two million Americans each year. The most common symptom is a stabbing pain that happens in your first steps after you wake up in the morning. The pain usually develops gradually and impacts only one foot but can affect both feet in some cases. It can also be trigged by extended periods of standing. You may also experience pain when climbing stairs or as the day goes on.
Normally the plantar fascia operates as a shock-absorbing bowstring which supports the arch in your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tension on this bowstring becomes too large and small tears are created in the fascia. The fascia becomes inflamed and irritated as the tearing and stretching becomes repetitive. There are a certain number of factors that influence the chances of you suffering from plantar fasciitis. If your feet roll inward a significant amount when you walk, it puts more pressure on the fascia. Flat feet or high arches can also lead to plantar fasciitis. Other factors include: if you run, stand, or walk for extended periods of time (particularly on hard surfaces like concrete), if you wear worn out shoes or shoes that do not fit properly, if you are overweight, and if you have tight calf muscles or Achilles tendon.
There are many treatment options available to help combat plantar fasciitis. Basic options include massage therapy, rest, night splints, stretching, and heat and cold therapy. There are a number of medications available to help ease and limit the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can ease inflammation and pain. A process called iontophoresis can be used to administer corticosteroids. The solution is applied over the painful area to the skin and a non-painful electric current helps absorb the medication. In rare cases, surgery may be required to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. This usually only happens when all other treatments have failed and the patient is in severe pain. This is because not all surgery is effective in improving the condition or eliminating pain, and can also cause the plantar fascia to rupture or become infected. It can also lead to nerve damage.
Luckily, about 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis recover through simple treatment methods in a few months. For some people, however, plantar fasciitis will impact them throughout their entire life. A physical therapist can help you learn a series of exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia to stabilize your heel and ankle by strengthening the lower leg muscles. If you play sports, you may need to apply athletic taping to help support the sole of your foot. A doctor may prescribe special orthotics to help evenly distribute pressure. You may also wear night splints to help stretch out the heel as you sleep and limit the pain you experience in the morning. To prevent plantar fasciitis, try to maintain a healthy weight to limit the stress and pressure on your plantar fascia. Avoid wearing high heels or going barefoot on hard surfaces like cement. Instead, wear support shoes. You should also avoid wearing worn-out running shoes while playing sports. WebMD has more information on how to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis.