Plantar Fasciitis

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that causes issues with what is known as the plantar fascia which is a band of tissue and ligaments that connects the toes to the heel of the foot. It is perhaps the most common cause of heel pain. When a person suffers from plantar fasciitis, that band of tissue becomes inflamed and causes pain, particularly when pressure is placed on the foot.

Plantar fasciitis is considered to be an injury that occurs from overuse. Women are the most prone to developing plantar fasciitis. Additionally, people who spend much of their time working on their feet and athletes might also be likely to develop this issue. In fact, runners are most commonly known for suffering from plantar fasciitis.

Being obese or overweight can also cause a person to be more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. The cause of this condition is usually overuse or excessive pressure on the plantar fascia. This causes strain on the ligaments and tissues and can result in small tears which cause pain and inflammation. While plantar fasciitis is considered to be an injury, it can also be a chronic condition.

What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain. Most often, this pain is more severe first thing in the morning and after a person moves around more, the plantar fascia loosens up and pain lessens. The initial pain may feel like a burning sensation. Immediately after exercise or activity, the pain may return due to increased inflammation.

Plantar Fasciitis Causes

Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation and/or injury of the plantar fascia, which originates at a bone in the foot called the calcaneus. There are two types of factors that increase the risk of developing this condition, known as extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Extrinsic factors include repetitive impact on hard surfaces during exercise; a sudden increase in the intensity, duration, and/or volume of exercise; and improper footwear or orthotic equipment. All of these components can act alone or in concert as drivers of inflammation and tissue damage that injure the plantar fascia. Intrinsic risk factors include anatomic abnormalities or issues that can lead to increased stress on the plantar fascia, causing inflammation and tissue damage. This includes overpronation; tight calf or hamstring muscles; very high arches; low arches, otherwise known as flat feet; and foot strike issues that place stress on sensitive areas in the lower extremities. In addition, obesity has been shown to play a role, as well as having a history of heel spurs.

How is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?

Plantar fasciitis treatments depend upon the severity of the symptoms. Conservative treatments include resting the feet, using ice packs, wearing heel and arch supports, and taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can all help to reduce symptoms and allow inflammation to subside.

Night splints and other supportive devices may also be recommended. Physical therapy and stretching routines may also help to keep the plantar fascia loose and prevent stiffness, pain, and tearing. Sometimes, plantar fasciitis requires more intense treatments. This can include corticosteroid injections and even surgery if the pain is severe and persistent.

Plantar Fasciitis Prevention

Given the multifactorial nature of plantar fasciitis, there are many precautionary steps that can be taken for prevention. Effective strategies in regard to extrinsic factors include a gradual increase of activity, especially on new or unfamiliar surfaces and taking proper rest periods between workouts. Additionally, ensuring proper function and fit of footwear and orthotic devices is essential in reducing the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. In addition to helping mitigate the effects of extrinsic risk factors, appropriate orthotic devices can also be very effective in helping reduce the risk imposed by some intrinsic factors. Using these devices to help with anatomic or structural issues is helpful in reducing the stress on susceptible areas of the foot. Also, adequate stretching and mobility work for the posterior muscles and structures of the leg including the hamstrings, calf musculature, and Achilles’ tendon significantly help reduce the harmful stress placed on the plantar fascia during exercise. Paying attention to proper form when performing repetitive exercise is also essential in helping to prevent plantar fasciitis. Stretching and mobility exercises combined with proper footwear and orthotic devices are very effective in helping to promote proper form and prevent plantar fascia injury. In addition, weight loss in obese individuals and proper care and maintenance of heel spurs are also effective ways to prevent plantar fasciitis.