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Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the plantar fascia experiences inflammation leading to pain. Plantar fascia is the thick, fibrous band of tissue that runs along the underneath of the foot, connecting the heel to the toes. It is one of the most general causes of foot pain and more common in women though men also suffer from it.

Plantar faciitis is common among athletes, particularly runners. It is generally experienced by those who do lots of walking, running, standing and are involved in other hectic activities which they are not used to.
Plantar fasciitis is quite often confused with heel spurs which results from bony deposits on the heels causing pain and tenderness. But the latter is the result of rather than a cause of the pain from plantar fasciitis. This condition may also be mistaken for ‘policeman’s heel’ which is inflammation of the sack of fluid or bursa under the heel bone.

Plantar fasciitis symptoms

The symptoms include a sharp stab or ache in the middle of the heel or along the arch of the foot. The pain is usually felt first thing in the morning as soon as you get out bed and take the first few steps. Gradually, the pain recedes but if you have to stand on your feet for a very long time or do vigorous activities, the pain and inflammation can come back.

Plantar fasciitis causes

Repeated injuries, though minor, to the fascia, where the ligament attaches to the heel bone, are said to lead to plantar fasciitis. Stress on the fascia can cause it to tear because it is made of collagen, which is a rigid protein and not stretchable.

There are a number of factors involved:

  • Wearing worn-out shoes and ones with poor cushion or arch support.
  • Wearing high-heels and then suddenly switching to flat shoes.
  • Doing vigorous exercises and running on a hard surface like asphalt or concrete instead of a track.
  • Increasing the intensity of exercise that places a lot of stress on your heel and plantar fascia.
  • Having flat, high-arched feet and tight calf muscles or Achilles tendon which is connected to the back of the plantar fascia.
  • Being overweight because extra weight means extra stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Advancing in years – plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.

Plantar fasciitis treatment

When you go for a check-up, your doctor will first spend some time getting all your details. He will ask for information on your lifestyle, job, what time of the day the symptoms occur, whether you are a runner, the type of shoes you wear and whether any past foot injuries. Treatment will then follow.
Plantar fasciitis is easily treatable and in a majority of the cases, it responds well to conservative methods of treatment. This condition heals by itself if proper care is taken. It may take some months before complete healing because the fascia tissue takes time to mend.
Surgery is rare and may be advised only after your doctor has tried out conventional treatments for 6 to 9 months and they do not work. The procedure will involve detaching the plantar fascia ligament from the heel bone in a process known as plantar fascia release. Surgery is not always successful and may lead to other complications like nerve injury, weakening of the arch in the foot, rupture of the fascia tissue and more pain.

Your doctor may advise you to:

Change footwear: In case your shoe is causing the problem changing the footwear will help you find relief from the pain. Best shoes for plantar fasciitis include cushioned heels and good arch support.
Avoid too much of activities: Give rest to your feet. Go for walks or do gentle exercises on the advice of a physiotherapist.
Shoe inserts for plantar fasciitis: Go for shoe inserts and heel inserts for plantar fasciitis which may cushion your heel. Custom-fitted supports or orthopedic shoes for plantar fasciitis are also available which will help distribute pressure evenly on your feet.
plantar faciitis night splint : Wear a plantar fasciitis night splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot and promotes healing during sleep. There are several types available from different manufacturers.
Extracorporeal shock-wave therapy: Extracorporeal shock-wave therapy is meant to stimulate healing of your plantar fascia by directing high-energy sound waves to the area of heel pain. It is still uncertain how effective this procedure is though it is considered to be safe.
Steroid shots: Some take steroid shots when the throbbing in the foot is severe. This provides temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
It is advisable to not delay a visit to the doctor if you are suffering from foot pain. Early advice and treatment can reverse the condition.