If your first step in the morning often feels like it involves a rusty nail being inserted into your heel, youâre not alone. Heel pain resulting from plantar fasciitis is the most prevalent
condition treated in podiatric clinics, and an additional 1 million Americans annually are seen by medical doctors for the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The
plantar fascia is the ligament that runs from the heel bone across the entire bottom of the foot and connects at the base of the toes. Ligaments connect bone to bone, and donât really constrict or
contract, but can become thickened because of inflammation. Inflammation of the plantar fascia can cause strain when you walk, specifically heel pain that is especially bad for the first few steps
after prolonged inactivity. It then typically loosens up once youâre up and about.
Plantar fasciitis generally occurs over time, rather than being the result of a single event. Micro trauma from repetitive stress to the tissue often combines with a biomechanical deficiency of the
foot to produce the condition. In addition, arthritic and metabolic factors may contribute to the development of this injury, (though they are unlikely to affect young athletes). A variety of
training errors commonly lead to plantar fasciitis, particularly a rapid increase in either volume or intensity of athletic activity. Volume refers to the distance or time an athlete performs, while
intensity refers to the pace of activity and/or the recovery time allowed following performance.
The classic sign of plantar fasciitis is that the worst pain occurs with the first few steps in the morning, but not every patient will have this symptom. Patients often notice pain at the beginning
of activity that lessens or resolves as they warm up. The pain may also occur with prolonged standing and is sometimes accompanied by stiffness. In more severe cases, the pain will also worsen toward
the end of the day.
Diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is based on a medical history, the nature of symptoms, and the presence of localised tenderness in the heel. X-rays may be recommended to rule out other causes for the
symptoms, such as bone fracture and to check for evidence of heel spurs. Blood tests may also be recommended.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment initially involves offloading the plantar fascia by aoiding aggravating factors, such as running. Taping, this can work very well to alleviate pain, and can be almost immediate. It isn't a
long-term solution, but can relieve symptoms in the beginning. Using a night splint to stretch the calf, so that less load is placed on the plantar fascia (if tightness in the calf is a factor).
Using a gel heel cup, this can act to increase shock absorption, and by raising the heel there is also less stretch on the calf. So, temporarily, this may relieve pain in someone who has a tight
calf. Massage, but this depends if the plantarfascia is actually tight or just painful. If it is tight, then massage can temporarily relieve the pain, but if it is irritated then taping and
corrective footwear is preferable.
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.
Factors that help prevent plantar fasciitis and reduce the risk of recurrence include. Exercises to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and ankle. Warming up before commencing physical activity.
Maintaining a healthy body weight. Avoiding high heeled footwear. Using orthotic devices such as arch supports and heel raises in footwear, particularly for people with very high arches or flat feet.
Daily stretches of plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.