What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an irritation and swelling of the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes. It can cause heel pain as well as pain in the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that frequently strikes people in middle age, but can occur in all age groups. Those who have overly flat feet or high arches are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis.
If you have plantar fasciitis the pain is frequently worse when you get up in the morning or sit for long periods of time. This is because the plantar fascia tightens up after periods of inactivity. Standing or being on your feet for long periods of time can also aggravate the condition. The pain of plantar fasciitis can sometimes be confused with heel spurs or tarsal tunnel syndrome. Your podiatrist can provide the correct diagnosis for any foot pain you are suffering.
Key risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:
- Having arch problems including flat feet or high arches
- Being a runner or athlete
- Obesity or sudden weight gain
- Having a tight Achilles tendon
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
Fortunately, treating plantar fasciitis is usually successful. Treatment does take time, however, sometimes lasting from several months to longer than a year.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis usually consists of:
- Rest (avoiding activity)
- Heel stretching exercises
- Ice packs
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Orthotics (shoe inserts)
- Supportive taping (foot strapping)
- Night splints
If these initial treatments are not successful, putting the foot in a short leg cast or a walking boot (similar to a ski boot) is often recommended. The boot is worn full-time but can be removed easily for bathing. Other treatments include steroid injections and surgery to release the inflamed fascia. These methods are usually only tried after other methods fail. Your podiatrist can give you more details about the different treatments for plantar fasciitis and discuss what is best for you.
After treatment, it is important to remember that the underlying causes that caused plantar fasciitis to occur can cause it to flare up again. Wearing supportive shoes, performing stretching exercises, controlling your weight, and using orthotics are all important ways to reduce the chances of this painful condition returning.