The plantar fascia is a web like ligament that attaches the heel of your foot to the front of your foot. The primary function of the plantar fascia is to absorb shock from the ground during activity.
Plantar fasciitis results from tiny tears and stretching of the plantar fascia, causing pain around the heel. Stress and tension in the plantar fascia are most common in runners and overweight people, especially when they wear shoes that don't offer enough support. It is also common in people who have jobs that require them to be on their feet all day, such as restaurant workers and warehouse personnel.
Sharp pain in the heel is the most common sign of plantar fasciitis. It may be intense when you first wake or after a rest, then feel better walking for a bit. The pain in the heel is also worse after exercise but not during the activity.
A foot doctor can diagnose plantar fasciitis. The doctor will base the diagnosis on the patient’s health history and a physical examination. The doctor will perform a few tests to check tenderness around the heel of the foot. The doctor may also order imaging tests such as an MRI or an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a stress fracture.
Treatment of plantar fasciitis usually only lasts a few months and relies heavily on ice treatment and rest; however, there are other treatments that the doctor may recommend. Plantar fasciitis pain can be lessened with medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Tylenol) or naproxen sodium(Aleve).
Stretching therapy can also help with plantar fasciitis. Doctors may recommend physical therapy to stretch out the plantar fascia. Prescription night splints can help stretch the muscles as you sleep. Special orthotics in your shoes may ease the pain while standing or walking.
If, after a couple of months, therapy is not relieving the plantar fasciitis pain, then the doctor may recommend more invasive treatments. For example, you may need injections of a steroid into the heel. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy is also a more invasive recovery method. This procedure places sound waves into the heel to stimulate healing. While it has a history of promising results, it hasn't been consistent in treatment for plantar fasciitis.
In extreme cases where therapy doesn’t help with plantar fasciitis, you may need surgery. A surgeon can detach the plantar fascia from the heel. Surgery is the last resort, only used when all other treatments have failed and the pain has intensified.
Several at-home and lifestyle changes can help relieve plantar fasciitis pain or prevent it. As plantar fasciitis is common in overweight people, maintaining a healthy weight can help to prevent it. Wear shoes with generous support, especially if you need to stand or walk all day. Try not to wear worn-out tennis shoes, as good support is necessary to stop plantar fasciitis. If you are a runner and find the pain from plantar fasciitis returns or is persistent, you may need to switch sports to something that puts less strain on the feet, such as swimming or biking.
Ice is always a tremendous at-home treatment for plantar fasciitis, as it can reduce pain and inflammation. Last, stretching of the calves, Achilles tendon, and Plantar Fascia is also a great way to combat the pain or prevent it.
If you have tenderness or pain in your heel and need an appointment, or you have more questions about plantar fasciitis, please reach out to Diablo Foot and Ankle or call (925)464-1982.