The condition called “plantar fasciitis” is the most widespread reason people have heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of a thick band of tissue that spreads across the sole of your foot which connects your heel bone to your toes. That tissue is called the plantar fascia. If you have plantar fasciitis then the most common complaint people have is severe stabbing pain in the heel that usually occurs with your first step in the morning. As you get up and move around, the pain usually decreases. However, the pain may return after long periods of standing up or after standing up from sitting a long time. Plantar fasciitis is actually very common in runners and joggers. It is also common in people who are overweight and those who use footwear with inadequate ankle support.
Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis
You can get the foot and heel pain of plantar fasciitis without any obvious cause. However, there are factors that put you at risk for developing plantar fasciitis. These risk factors are listed below.
- Age: Plantar fasciitis most commonly occurs in people between 40 and 60 years old.
- Particular physical activities: Exercises that put a lot of stress on your heel and sole, like long-distance running, jogging, jumping activities, ballet dancing, and aerobic exercises can contribute to an early onset of plantar fasciitis.
- Foot anatomy: If you are flat-footed, or have a high arch, or have an abnormal pattern of walking, then you might be distributing your body weight abnormally. This can put additional stress on your feet and your plantar fascia.
- Being overweight or obese: It is obvious that excessive weight puts additional stress on your plantar fascia.
- Certain occupations: Jobs that keep you on your feet, like factory workers, teachers, postal employees, cashiers, and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on a hard surface can damage their plantar fascia – especially if they are not wearing the proper shoes.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
Most people who suffer with plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments including stretching, resting and icing. Most will see full recovery within several months.
Pain Medicines — Popular pain relievers such as Advil, Motrin and Aleve can ease the pain and inflammation you get with plantar fasciitis. But they are useful only when the pain occurs. It’s better to stop the pain before it happens (see Night Brace, below).
Night brace — Most patients report excellent results using a night brace. A night brace will stretch your calf and arch – and therefore your plantar fascia – while you sleep. This stretching maintains your plantar fascia in a lengthened position overnight, so that in the morning the fascia is already extended. Doing so avoids having the painful “first steps” when you wake up.
Physical therapy — A physical therapist can give you a series of foot exercises to stretch your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. The exercises can also strengthen lower leg muscles in order to stabilize your ankle and heel.
Injections — Injecting a steroid medicine into the tender area of your heel may give you temporary pain relief. Multiple injections are not recommended because they may weaken your plantar fascia and might cause it to split or rupture.
Shock wave therapy — In this treatment, sound waves are sent into your heel to stimulate healing. It’s usually used for chronic plantar fasciitis that hasn’t responded to other treatments. This procedure might cause bruising, swelling, pain, tingling or numbness. Unfortunately, this remedy is not consistently effective.
Surgery – A surgical procedure called “Tenex” is a minimally invasive procedure that removes the scar tissue of plantar fasciitis. In more severe cases, extensive invasive surgery is required to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone altogether. Such is usually an option only when the pain is excruciating and all other treatments have failed. The side effects of this surgery include weakening of your foot’s arch.