Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes pain in the heel, making it difficult to stand and walk.
This condition results from damage to the plantar fascia, the flat band of tissue that runs from the heel along the bottom of the foot and supports the arch.
Under your heel, a pad of fat cushions this ligament. When the plantar fascia becomes strained or weakened, the fat pad can become thinner and less capable of absorbing the shock that occurs when you walk or otherwise place weight on the foot.
This in turn places more shock on the plantar fascia, resulting in swelling, tearing or bruising. The pain that results can be severe and even debilitating to many people.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
A strain to the plantar fascia may be caused by a variety of factors.
Age plays a part in many cases, as this ligament becomes less flexible and loses elasticity over time. Many patients with this condition are middle-aged, though it can also occur in runners and other athletes, and in younger people who spend a great deal of time on their feet.
Strain in the ligament is more likely in people who have high arches or flat feet, as these conditions can cause an abnormal pattern of weight distribution while walking. Diabetics and overweight people also are at greater risk for developing this chronic condition.
Plantar Fasciitis Diagnosis
The doctor will begin the diagnostic process by taking your medical history and asking questions about past health issues and the scope, level and duration of pain and other symptoms.
In many cases, the pain is sharp and stabbing when first standing or walking, and then develops into a dull ache after a period of time. This symptom pattern is common in many PF patients.
Next, the doctor will perform a physical exam to evaluate how you stand and walk.
X-rays cannot show ligaments and soft tissues, but can reveal other causes of heel pain, such as a bone cyst, stress fracture or other foot or ankle condition. Rarely, the doctor may order additional tests, such as an MRI or bone scan, to help confirm a diagnosis.
Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
Fortunately, conservative treatment can provide relief for most patients suffering from this condition.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Physical therapy also may be beneficial, and stretching exercises can help to restore flexibility and promote healing of the ligament.
Your doctor may suggest wearing a splint at night to hold the plantar fascia in a stretched, lengthened position. Wearing properly cushioned shoes can help, but some patients may need heel cups or custom-fitted arch supports to evenly distribute shock and pressure along the feet.
If a conservative treatment approach fails to alleviate symptoms, more aggressive options, such as steroid injections, extracorporeal shock wave therapy or surgery may be considered.
If you have pain in your feet, contact our office to schedule a consultation as soon as possible. Left untreated, you may be at risk of worsening pain or further damage if plantar fasciitis is the cause of your discomfort.
Reviewed By: Traske Muir