Plantar Fasciitis

In this patient education video, Dr. Carlo Oller explains the diagnosis and treatment of Plantar Fasciitis.

What causes heel pain? 

— One of the most common causes of heel pain is a problem called “plantar fasciitis.” Plantar fasciitis is the term doctors use when a part of the foot called the plantar fascia gets irritated or swollen. The plantar fascia is a tough band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. Heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis is very common. It often affects people who run, jump, or stand for long periods. Most people who get this type of heel pain get better within a year even if they do not get treated.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis? 

— The most common symptom is pain under the heel and sole (bottom) of the foot. It commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. As you get up and move more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting. Plantar fasciitis pain can also be bad when you get up after being seated for some time.

What causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension and stress on that bowstring become too great, small tears can arise in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, though in many cases of plantar fasciitis, the cause isn’t clear.

What are the risk factors for the development of plantar fasciitis?

Though plantar fasciitis can arise without an obvious cause, factors that can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis include: * Age. Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60. * Certain types of exercise. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballistic jumping activities, ballet dancing and aerobic dance — can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis. * Foot mechanics. Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can affect the way weight is distributed when you’re standing and put added stress on the plantar fascia. * Obesity. Excess pounds put extra stress on your plantar fascia. * Occupations that keep you on your feet. Factory workers, teachers and others who spend most of their work hours walking or standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?  

— Yes, you can: If you are overweight, loosing weight will help. ●Rest – Give your foot a chance to heal by resting. But don’t completely stop being active. Doing that can lead to more pain and stiffness in the long run. ●Ice your foot – Putting ice on your heel for 20 minutes up to 4 times a day might relieve pain. Icing and massaging your foot before exercise might also help. ●Do special foot exercises – Certain exercises can help with heel pain. Do these exercises every day. ●Take pain medicines – If your pain is severe, you can try taking pain medicines that you can get without a prescription. Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen . But if you have other medical conditions or already take other medicines, ask your doctor or nurse before taking new pain medicines. ●Wear sturdy shoes – Sneakers with a lot of cushion and good arch and heel support are best. Shoes with rigid soles can also help. Adding padded or gel heel inserts to your shoes might help, too. ●Wear splints at night – Some people feel better if they wear a splint while they sleep that keeps their foot straight. These splints are sold in drugstores and medical supply stores.

Is there a test for plantar fasciitis? 

— No, there is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam. He or she might suggest an X-ray, or other tests to check whether your symptoms might be caused by something else. Sometimes an X-ray shows a spur of bone projecting forward from the heel bone. In the past, these bone spurs were often blamed for heel pain and removed surgically. But many people who have bone spurs on their heels have no heel pain.