Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

Condition

Condition

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition characterised by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes. This condition typically causes sharp, stabbing pain in the heel, especially during the first steps in the morning or after long periods of rest. 

Plantar fasciitis is often the result of repetitive strain or overuse, leading to small tears in the fascia. It is frequently seen in runners, individuals who are overweight, or spend long periods of time standing, and those who wear inadequate footwear.

Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

Causes & Risk Factors Of Heel Pain

Many factors can lead to the onset of heel pain. Recognising them is important for effective prevention and treatment.

Overuse and Repetitive Stress

Engaging in activities that place excessive stress on the heel and attached tissue, such as running, walking, or standing for long periods, can lead to plantar fasciitis. Athletes and individuals with jobs requiring prolonged standing are particularly at risk.

Improper Footwear

Wearing shoes that lack proper arch support, cushioning, or heel support can contribute to plantar fasciitis, leading to increased strain on the plantar fascia.

Foot Structure and Mechanics

Abnormal foot mechanics, such as flat feet, high arches, or an abnormal walking pattern, can affect the way weight is distributed across the foot, putting additional stress on the plantar fascia.

Obesity

Excess body weight can place additional stress on the plantar fascia, increasing the risk of inflammation and pain. This is especially true for individuals who are overweight or obese.

Age

Plantar fasciitis is most common in individuals aged between 40 and 60. As the foot ages, the plantar fascia can become less elastic and more prone to injury.

Sudden Increases in Activity

Rapidly increasing the intensity or duration of physical activity without proper conditioning can strain the plantar fascia, leading to inflammation and pain.

Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis typically presents with specific symptoms that can significantly impact daily activities. Recognising these symptoms early can lead to more effective treatment and quicker recovery:

How To Prevent Heel Pain

Preventing plantar fasciitis involves taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of developing this painful condition.

Wear Supportive Shoes

Opt for shoes that provide arch support and cushioning to minimise stress on the plantar fascia.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Keeping your weight in check helps decrease the pressure on your feet.

Stretch Regularly

Perform regular stretching exercises for your calves and the plantar fascia to keep them flexible and strong.

Use Orthotics

Custom orthotic devices can provide additional support and correct foot mechanics.

Gradual Increase in Activity

Increase physical activity levels gradually to avoid sudden stress on the feet.

Avoid Walking Barefoot on Hard Surfaces

Walking barefoot, especially on hard surfaces, can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.

Take Breaks During Prolonged Standing or Activity

If your job or activities involve long periods of standing, ensure to take breaks to rest your feet.

Use Ice After Activity

Apply ice to your feet after intense activities to reduce inflammation.

Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis

Diagnosing plantar fasciitis involves a combination of taking a medical history, doing a physical examination, and usually diagnostic imaging tests to confirm the condition.

Medical History

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and any activities that may have contributed to your heel pain.

Physical Examination

The affected foot will be examined, focusing on areas of tenderness and pain, around the ankle and foot.

X-Rays

While X-rays cannot diagnose plantar fasciitis directly, they help rule out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or bone spurs.

Ultrasound

This imaging test can show inflammation, thickening or tears in the plantar fascia, helping to confirm the diagnosis.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI scans)

In certain cases, an MRI scan may be ordered to get a detailed image of the foot tissues if the diagnosis is unclear or if other conditions are suspected.

Heel Pain & Plantar Fasciitis

Heel Pain Treatment

Treating plantar fasciitis involves a combination of methods to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and promote healing.

Stretching Exercises

Regular stretching of the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can help reduce tension and promote flexibility, alleviating pain and preventing the condition from worsening.

Orthotic Devices

Custom or over-the-counter shoe inserts provide better arch support and cushioning, reducing strain on the plantar fascia and improving foot mechanics.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can guide you through specific exercises and techniques to improve strength and flexibility in the foot and lower leg, reducing pain and inflammation.

Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation, making it easier to perform stretching and strengthening exercises.

Night Splints

Wearing a splint at night keeps the foot in a stretched position, reducing morning pain and stiffness by preventing the calf muscle, Achilles tendon and plantar fascia from contracting overnight.

Corticosteroid Injections

In certain cases, corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and pain in the plantar fascia, providing temporary relief and allowing other treatments to be more effective.

Shock Wave Therapy

This non-invasive treatment uses pressure waves to stimulate healing in the plantar fascia, promoting blood flow and tissue repair to reduce pain and inflammation.

Surgery

In persistent cases where conservative treatments fail, surgery may be considered to release the tension in the plantar fascia. This procedure involves making small keyhole incisions to insert a camera and a shaving device to remove a portion of the damaged plantar fascia to relieve tension and reduce inflammation. The surgeon may also remove other damaged tissue or bone spurs that contribute to the pain. This helps provide relief by allowing the plantar fascia to heal without being excessively stretched.

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