There can be any number of reasons for foot and heel pain, from arthritis to tendonitis, to some serious conditions such as bone tumors. But by far, plantar fasciitis is probably the most likely cause of common foot pain.
Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia is a thick, web-like ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It supports the arch of your foot and helps you walk.
Plantar fasciitis is usually a cause of heel pain in runners, but runners are certainly not the only people to experience the problem.
People who work long hours standing on their feet are also prone to plantar fasciitis, as are the woman who tend to spend frequent or extended periods of time wearing and walking in high-heels.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can be generally described as an overuse injury in the foot, similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the hand. Clinically it is defined as the inflammation of the three-banded ligament on the bottom of the foot, known as the plantar fascia.
Often, the inflamed plantar fascia tears away from the middle portion of the heel bone. This can result in significant pain in the heel, leading some patients to confuse the pain of plantar fasciitis with a heel spur. Only a visit to your doctor or podiatrist can result in a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
How is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?
Treatment for Plantar fasciitis varies according to the severity of the condition. Initial treatment, however, almost always starts with rest, applying ice, and stretching exercises of the affected areas.
The next steps would include using a night splint that can help stretch your calf and the arch of your foot. Night splints are a type of brace that holds your foot in a flexed position and lengthens the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon overnight. This can prevent morning pain and stiffness.
Night splints may be used in conjunction with special orthotics, or arch supports for your shoes, to help alleviate some of the pain by distributing pressure, and they can prevent further damage to the plantar fascia.
If that does not alleviate the pain, the next step is to use cortisone injections in the heel to reduce inflammation. A course of physical therapy may also be required in some patients.
In some rare cases, the pain and the problem is so severe that surgical intervention is necessary to release the plantar fascia. This procedure is similar to Carpal Tunnel Release surgery performed on the hands.
Prevention and Proper Footwear Is the Key
As with many painful foot conditions, plantar fasciitis can be prevented or minimized by wearing properly fitted shoes. Footwear with good or added arch and heel support can also help prevent the pain of plantar fasciitis, as will wearing shoes with a stockier heel. The various innner sole products available can also be helpful. Women should alternate wearing high-heels with a good sneaker or walking shoe, to and from the office.
Plantar fasciitis, can be painful and inconvenient, but it can be well-managed. Most people don’t need surgery, or even injections to relieve the pain from plantar fasciitis, but can get good results through physical therapy, home treatments, and sensible footwear.