About one-tenth of the U.S. population suffers from some kind of heel pain. One particular type of heel pain, plantar fasciitis, sends one million people in search of medical relief for their condition. If you suffer from this chronic pain issue, you may find even getting out of bed in the morning an excruciating experience.
You can take control of your plantar fasciitis by understanding why it occurs, recognizing specific symptoms, and seeking the proper treatment methods for much-needed relief. Start by examining the answers to common questions people ask about plantar fasciitis.
What Does It Mean to Have Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is when a band of connective tissue that runs along the sole of your foot from the metatarsal bones to the heel bone becomes inflamed. This tissue, the plantar fascia, helps form and maintain the arch of the foot. This arch support allows your feet to carry your body weight evenly and efficiently as you stand or move.
In plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia becomes strained, producing micro-tears in the tissue. Recurring or constant strain may prevent these tears from healing before new ones can develop, leading to a constant state of inflammation.
Why Does Plantar Fasciitis Occur?
While not every case of plantar fasciitis has an obvious cause, the condition tends to occur in people who spend lots of time on their feet or who make excessive demands on their feet through their work, sports pursuits, or other strenuous activities. Shoes that provide inadequate arch support can aggravate the problem.
Some people have musculoskeletal alignment problems, including abnormally high or low arches, which make them unusually vulnerable to plantar fasciitis. Their discomfort may cause them to compensate by adopting postural shifts that cause strain in other parts of the body. Other risk factors include obesity and age (for those over 40).
What Are Some Telltale Signs of Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can cause a burning sensation, dull ache, or sharp pain in the heel or the middle part of the foot. While other problems can also cause these symptoms, plantar fasciitis stands out by producing its most intense pain when you first stand on your feet after sleep or prolonged rest, easing in severity as you move around.
You can also recognize plantar fasciitis pain by its tendency to wait until you have finished some strenuous activity, such as sports training or a long work shift, before causing pain. You may feel comfortable until you give your feet a break, at which point the pain sets in.
How Do Podiatrists Diagnose and Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Podiatrists can often diagnose plantar fasciitis simply by evaluating your symptoms, medical history, weight, arch height, footwear, and everyday lifestyle. Your podiatrist may also flex and press on your foot (noting any changes in your comfort level), test your muscle and nerve function, or take diagnostic images of your feet.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis may include numerous techniques and approaches that work together holistically to provide symptom relief. Initial steps may include applying ice to reduce swelling and inflammation, avoiding the activities that brought the symptoms on, and taking anti-inflammatory medication.
Once your podiatrist has managed to ease your acute pain, you may embark on a course of physical therapy to improve your feet's strength and flexibility while also aiding blood flow and tissue healing. You may wear night splints to keep the tissues from tightening up overnight.
Your podiatrist may recommend that you switch to more supportive footwear so that your arches endure less strain during the day. If you have especially high arches or flat feet, you may need to use orthotic insoles. Prescription orthotics typically feature a custom fit based on digital scans or impressions of your feet.
If these kinds of treatment don't achieve optimal results, you may benefit from injections of stronger anti-inflammatory drugs such as cortisone. Podiatrists recommend surgery for plantar fasciitis only in the most extreme and debilitating cases, since the surgery can reduce arch height and foot function.
The skilled doctors at Ankle & Foot Clinic of Everett know how to prescribe customized care for plantar fasciitis sufferers. Contact our office today to request an appointment.