Plantar fasciitis, the heel pain caused by irritation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot, can be lingering and intractable. A recent study of novice runners found that those who
developed plantar fasciitis generally required at least five months to recover, and some remained sidelined for a year or more. Until recently, first-line treatments involved stretching and
anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen or cortisone. But many scientists now believe that anti-inflammatories are unwarranted, because the condition involves little inflammation. Stretching
is still commonly recommended.
The plantar fascia can also become aggravated by repetitive activity. If you increase the number of times the heel hits the ground, that can cause plantar fasciitis, a number of people develop
problems when their feet are unaccustomed to hard tile or wood floors. Other risk factors for plantar fasciitis include obesity, an extra high or low foot arch, and activities like running.
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia - a band of tough fibrous tissue running along the sole of the foot. It occurs when small tears develop in the plantar fascia, leading to
inflammation and heel pain. The plantar fascia tissue branches out from the heel like a fan, connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. When the foot moves, the plantar fascia stretches and
contracts. The plantar fascia helps to maintain the arch of the foot in much the same way that the string of a bow maintains the bow's arch. The most notable symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel
pain. This is typically most severe in the middle of the heel though it may radiate along the sole of the foot. The pain is most often felt when walking first thing in the morning or after a period
of rest. As walking continues the pain may decrease; however some degree of pain remains present on movement. The pain may disappear when resting, as the plantar fascia is relaxed. Redness, swelling
and warmth over the affected area may also be noticed. The onset of plantar fasciitis is gradual and only mild pain may be experienced initially. However, as the condition progresses the pain
experienced tends to become more severe. Chronic plantar fasciitis may cause a person to change their walking or running action, leading to symptoms of discomfort in the knee, hip and back.
If you see a doctor for heel pain, he or she will first ask questions about where you feel the pain. If plantar fasciitis is suspected, the doctor will ask about what activities you've been doing
that might be putting you at risk. The doctor will also examine your foot by pressing on it or asking you to flex it to see if that makes the pain worse. If something else might be causing the pain,
like a heel spur or a bone fracture, the doctor may order an X-ray to take a look at the bones of your feet. In rare cases, if heel pain doesn't respond to regular treatments, the doctor also might
order an MRI scan of your foot. The good news about plantar fasciitis is that it usually goes away after a few months if you do a few simple things like stretching exercises and cutting back on
activities that might have caused the problem. Taking over-the-counter medicines can help with pain. It's rare that people need surgery for plantar fasciitis. Doctors only do surgery as a last resort
if nothing else eases the pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
In many instances, plantar fasciitis can be treated with home care. Changing your physical activities, resting the foot, and applying ice to the area are common remedies. Taking over the counter
medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation that may have developed. An orthotic device placed in your shoes can also significantly help to reduce pain. In
addition, orthotics can also help promote healing to reverse plantar fasciitis. If pain from plantar fasciitis continues despite conservative treatments, you may need to visit a doctor or podiatrist.
It's important to seek medical advice before heel pain and damage becomes worse. If the condition is allowed to worsen, more serious or invasive forms of treatment may be required to stop pain. A
visit to a doctor may reveal other conditions affecting the foot as well, such as Achilles tendonitis, heel spurs, or other heel pain conditions. An x-ray may also be taken, which can reveal the
presence of a heel spur. In rare cases surgery may be required to release tension on the plantar fascia, or to remove a portion of a heel spur. But again, most heel pain conditions can be resolved
using conservative treatment.
The majority of patients, about 90%, will respond to appropriate non-operative treatment measures over a period of 3-6 months. Surgery is a treatment option for patients with persistent symptoms, but
is NOT recommended unless a patient has failed a minimum of 6-9 months of appropriate non-operative treatment. There are a number of reasons why surgery is not immediately entertained including.
Non-operative treatment when performed appropriately has a high rate of success. Recovery from any foot surgery often takes longer than patients expect. Complications following this type of surgery
can and DO occur! The surgery often does not fully address the underlying reason why the condition occurred therefore the surgery may not be completely effective. Prior to surgical intervention, it
is important that the treating physician ensure that the correct diagnosis has been made. This seems self-evident, but there are other potential causes of heel pain. Surgical intervention may include
extracorporeal shock wave therapy or endoscopic or open partial plantar fasciectomy.
The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis is to wear shoes that are well made and fit your feet. This is especially important when you exercise or walk a lot or stand for a long time on hard
surfaces. Get new athletic shoes before your old shoes stop supporting and cushioning your feet. You should also avoid repeated jarring to the heel. Keep a healthy weight. Do your leg and foot
stretching exercises regularly.