The heel is connected to the anterior part of the foot by the Plantar Fasciitis. This ligament also provides support to the arch of the foot and aids in walking. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that causes heel pain and arch pain.
Plantar fasciitis is a common orthopedic condition. The plantar fascia ligament supports the foot’s arch and gets torn or damaged when there is too much pressure on it. It also gets worn out and becomes inflamed from daily use. This in turn leads to heel stiffness and discomfort.
Do I Have Plantar Fasciitis?
Those with plantar fasciitis often experience discomfort at the bottom of the heel. However, some people feel the pain at the bottom part of the mid-foot. The condition develops over time and can affect one or both feet. People with plantar fasciitis describe the pain differently. Some have burning pain while others experience a dull pain. A sharp pain is also common among people with this condition.
You may have plantar fasciitis if you feel that the pain worsens during the morning. Because the heel is stiff, it is common for people with plantar fasciitis to experience heel pain and arch pain when climbing the stairs. Flare ups may occur after prolonged movement and is typically felt after the activity.
What Are the Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
Overweight individuals have a higher risk of developing the condition due to increased pressure on the ligaments. Pregnant women may also experience plantar fasciitis during the late stages of their pregnancy.
Plantar fasciitis is also common among long-distance runners and individuals with jobs that require them to be on their feet very often. People aged 40 to 70 have the highest risk of acquiring plantar fasciitis.
Those with issues with their foot, such as having flat feet or high arches, may end up with plantar fasciitis. Achilles tendons that are too tight may also lead to heel and arch pain. As simple as using shoes that have soft soles and do not have good arch support can lead to the condition.
Plantar fasciitis is not normally caused by a heel spur, which is a bone that forms on the heel. About 10 percent of people have heel spurs, but only 5 percent of these individuals experience discomfort.
How Is Plantar Fasciitis Diagnosed?
A physical exam has to be done to assess for any tenderness in your feet. The doctor will also check the exact spot where you feel pain to ensure that it is not caused by a different condition. Any swelling or redness will be evaluated. Your doctor may also check if the pain worsens when you flex your foot by simply pushing on the plantar fascia while the foot is flexed.
Apart from a physical assessment, muscle strength and nerve condition will be evaluated by checking your balance, coordination, reflexes, and muscle tone.
In some cases, an MRI or X-ray will be ordered by your doctor to ensure that the heel pain is not caused by another foot problem.
How Is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?
Reducing any inflammation in the ligament is part of the treatment plan. However, the reduction of inflammation alone does not treat any ligament damage
Plantar fasciitis may be treated at home by resting your feet and applying cold compress for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this three or four times every day for the swelling to reduce. Modifying your exercise regime and reducing your activities may also help. Even simple stretching exercises can relieve the discomfort brought by plantar fasciitis.
Other ways to treat the condition at home is to use arch supports and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil.
If home treatments do not suffice, your doctor may inject a corticosteriod into the part of the ligament that is damaged. This is done in the doctor’s office with the aid of an ultrasound device to identify the best spot for the injection. Topical corticosteroids may also be applied on the arch or heel of the affected foot. An electrical current is then applied to allow the steroid to seep through the skin and to the muscle.
Those afflicted with plantar fasciitis may find relief in physical therapy. Regular physical therapy sessions help stretch the plantar fascia. Your physical therapist can also teach you ways to improve the strength of lower leg muscles, which in turn stabilizes your walk and decreases workload on the ligament.
In cases where other treatments do not work, extracorporeal shock wave therapy may be recommended. This therapy includes bombarding the heels with sound waves to promote healing in the ligament. The treatment has some minor side effects, such as swelling, pain, and numbness. However, it is known to be effective in improving symptoms.
Surgery provides the most dramatic results and is only advised when there is severe pain. The first surgery involves partially removing the ligament from the bone, weakening the foot’s arch. This procedure affects the functionality of the foot. A second surgery called gastrocnemius recession is needed to lengthen the calf muscle.
Use of Braces and Supports
Night splints can be used to stretch the calf and arch of the foot. These splints ensure that the foot is always in a flexed position overnight, thereby preventing pain during the morning.
Arch supports are special orthotics placed in shoes to reduce the pain. These supports allow pressure to be distributed and prevent additional damage to the ligament.
What Are the Complications of Plantar Fasciitis?
Chronic heel pain is a complication of plantar fasciitis. The condition changes the way you walk and even lead to leg, knee, hip, and back injury.
Treatments can cause the plantar fascia to weaken up to the point of rupture. Surgery also comes with risks, such as infection, bleeding, and side effects to anesthesia. Nerve and foot damage may also occur after surgery.
What Can People with Plantar Fasciitis Expect?
The majority of people do not require surgery for pain relief. Their condition usually improves with the help of physical therapy, home treatment, and medical intervention. However, it may take a couple of months to even two years of treatment for symptoms to improve.