What is it?
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common problems of Heel Pain. Your foot is made up of a thick, fibrous band of tissue (Fascia) that runs under the foot from the heel bone to the toes. These tissues support the muscles and the arch of your foot. When the tissues are overly stretched, tiny tears can occur on the surface and cause pain under the heel and inflammation. Some people may experience pain under the arch of the foot as well.
Having poor foot biomechanics (eg over pronation) or weakness of your foot arch muscles can also attribute to the condition. Doctors now believe that this type of pain is not caused by heel spurs (bony growths), but are the result of the pain from plantar fasciitis, not the cause of it.
If you have plantar fasciitis you will usually feel pain in the bottom of your heel or arch your the foot. It typically causes a stabbing, aching, sharp or burning pain in the sole, often centering in the heel area. There may be swelling, redness, or feelings of heat in this area. Some people describe it like a bruise or an ache. Pain can be in just one foot, though it is possible to have Plantar Fasciitis in both feet. It usually occurs with your first steps in the morning or after resting and progressively gets better once you begin walking around. It might return after long periods of standing or sitting. The pain is usually worse after exercise, not during it.
There are many causes for this condition. It tends to be more common in women than men. Usually as you age, being overweight or just on your feet for several hours a day can contribute. It is also associated with impact and running sports.
Here are some other causes that can contribute to plantar fasciitis:
- Activities, exercise and certain sports place excessive stress on the heel bone and its attached tissue. Having tight calf muscles or a stiff ankle from a previous injury will limit ankle movement e.g. Running, ballet dancing and aerobics.
- Poor walking and running mechanics – for instance having an unusual walk or foot position. e.g. running on your toes and not on your heels.
- Carrying extra weight increases the strain and stress on your plantar fascia. Especially during pregnancy, where gaining weight and swelling can cause ligaments to become more relaxed. This can lead to mechanical problems and inflammation.
- Standing for long periods during the day can put a lot of unnecessary stress on your feet, especially on hard surfaces.
- Having Flat Feet or High Foot Arches. Changes in the arch of your foot changes the shock absorption ability. This can stretch and strain the plantar fascia, which then has to absorb the additional force. Having a weak arch muscle can cause your plantar fascia to overstress and be injured.
- Age – As you get older the arch of your foot may begin to sag – placing extra stress on the plantar fascia.
- Shoes that do not provide enough support for the arch can take a serious toll on it. Suddenly switching from supportive footwear to footwear that inhibits intrinsic foot muscles. E.g. high heels, flat shoes, thongs, or barefoot. Even old shoes that are worn-out with thin soles can add stress on the heel.
- Some types of arthritis can cause inflammation in the tendons in the bottom of your foot, which may lead to plantar fasciitis.
- Diabetes – Although doctors don’t know why plantar fasciitis occurs more often in people with diabetes.
Most people who suffer from plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments. Try these at home first:
- Resting – rest your feet.
- ICE – use ice on the painful area of your heel.
- Medications such as panadol, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease the pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis.
- Exercises and stretches – A specialised health professional can provide you with a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles. this will help to stabilize your ankle and heel. Tapping may also be applied to help support the bottom of your foot.
- Night splints – You might be recommended to wear a splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight and facilitates stretching.
- Your doctor might prescribe off-the-shelf or custom-fitted arch supports (orthotics) to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly.
Chiro & Sports Med
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