Plantar fasciitis is a common, painful foot condition. Patients, and sometimes doctors often confuse the terms plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Plantar fasciitis refers to the syndrome of
inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel along the arch of the foot; a heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus). About 70% of patients with plantar
fasciitis have been noted to have a heel spur that can be seen on x-ray. Plantar fasciitis is most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The condition is
diagnosed with the classic symptoms of pain well focused deep in the heel area of the bottom of the foot. Often the pain from plantar fasciitis is most severe when you first stand on your feet in the
morning. Pain often subsides quite quickly, but then returns after prolonged standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes, but not always, associated with a rapid gain of weight. It is also
sometimes seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. In these athletes, it is thought that the repetitive nature of the sports causes the damage to the fibrous tissue that forms the arch of
There are a number of plantar fasciitis causes. The plantar fascia ligament is like a rubber band and loosens and contracts with movement. It also absorbs significant weight and pressure. Because of
this function, plantar fasciitis can easily occur from a number of reasons. Among the most common is an overload of physical activity or exercise. Athletes are particularly prone to plantar fasciitis
and commonly suffer from it. Excessive running, jumping, or other activities can easily place repetitive or excessive stress on the tissue and lead to tears and inflammation, resulting in moderate to
severe pain. Athletes who change or increase the difficulty of their exercise routines are also prone to overdoing it and causing damage. Another common cause of plantar fasciitis is arthritis.
Certain types of arthritis can cause inflammation to develop in tendons, resulting in plantar fasciitis. This cause is particularly common among elderly patients. Diabetes is also a factor that can
contribute to further heel pain and damage, particularly among the elderly. Among the most popular factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis is wearing incorrect shoes. In many cases, shoes either
do not fit properly, or provide inadequate support or cushioning. While walking or exercising in improper shoes, weight distribution becomes impaired, and significantly stress can be added to the
plantar fascia ligament.
When a patient has plantar fasciitis, the connective tissue that forms the arch of the foot becomes inflamed (tendonitis) and degenerative (tendinosis)--these abnormalities cause plantar fasciitis
and can make normal activities quite painful. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis are typically worsened early in the morning after sleep. At that time, the arch tissue is tight and simple movements
stretch the contracted tissue. As you begin to loosen the foot, the pain usually subsides, but often returns with prolonged standing or walking.
Plantar fasciosis is confirmed if firm thumb pressure applied to the calcaneus when the foot is dorsiflexed elicits pain. Fascial pain along the plantar medial border of the fascia may also be
present. If findings are equivocal, demonstration of a heel spur on x-ray may support the diagnosis; however, absence does not rule out the diagnosis, and visible spurs are not generally the cause of
symptoms. Also, infrequently, calcaneal spurs appear ill defined on x-ray, exhibiting fluffy new bone formation, suggesting spondyloarthropathy (eg, ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis. If an
acute fascial tear is suspected, MRI is done.
Non Surgical Treatment
Talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include. Apply ice or a cold pack to the heel and arch for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a
towel. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. A special splint that will hold your foot in a neutral position while sleeping. Special shoe inserts that support the mid-arch region of your foot.
Inserts that are not customized may work just as well as those that are customized. Activity. Avoid running and other activities that may worsen pain. Begin stretching exercises to lengthen the
Achilles tendon and plantar fascia as recommended by your doctor. This is usually done when pain has lessened or improved. To help manage pain, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Prescription pain relievers may also be required. Steroid injections may be used in some cases or if other treatment is not
working. A special type of sound wave called extracorporeal shock wave may also be considered in certain cases. This treatment happens under the care of your doctor. At this time, this is generally a
treatment for long-term cases that do not respond to other treatments. Massage therapy or accupuncture may also be effective for long-term cases. In a few cases, basic treatments don't help. Surgery
may be performed to cut the tight, swollen fascia.
When more-conservative measures aren't working, your doctor might recommend steroid shots. Injecting a type of steroid medication into the tender area can provide temporary pain relief. Multiple
injections aren't recommended because they can weaken your plantar fascia and possibly cause it to rupture, as well as shrink the fat pad covering your heel bone. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy.
In this procedure, sound waves are directed at the area of heel pain to stimulate healing. It's usually used for chronic plantar fasciitis that hasn't responded to more-conservative treatments. This
procedure may cause bruises, swelling, pain, numbness or tingling and has not been shown to be consistently effective. Surgery. Few people need surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the heel
bone. It's generally an option only when the pain is severe and all else fails. Side effects include a weakening of the arch in your foot.
Stretching exercises for your foot are important. Do the stretches shown here at least twice a day. Don't bounce when you stretch. Plantar fascia stretch. To do the plantar fascia stretch, stand
straight with your hands against a wall and your injured leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower
part of your leg. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch 6 to 8 times. Calf stretch. Stand with your hands against a wall and your injured leg behind your other leg. With your
injured leg straight, your heel flat on the floor and your foot pointed straight ahead, lean slowly forward, bending the other leg. You should feel the stretch in the middle of your calf. Hold the
stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch 6 to 8 times. Other exercises. You can also strengthen your leg muscles by standing on the ball of your foot at the edge of a step and raising up as
high as possible on your toes. Relax between toe raises and let your heel fall a little lower than the edge of the step. It's also helpful to strengthen the foot by grabbing a towel with your toes as
if you are going to pick up the towel with your foot. Repeat this exercise several times a day.