Plantar fasciitis is a common orthopedic condition that causes pain in the heel of the foot. The pain is usually more severe in the mornings and subsides as the muscles and ligaments warm up. This blog will explore the causes, symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for plantar fasciitis.

What is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue along the bottom of your foot. The tissue connects the heel bone to the toes and acts as a support for the arch of your foot. It helps absorb stress and shock on the feet when we walk or run. When this band of tissue becomes inflamed from too much pressure, it can lead to plantar fasciitis.

Causes of plantar fasciitis

Around two million people suffer from plantar fasciitis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is common among athletes, people on their feet for long periods, and those with certain risk factors.

Causes of plantar fasciitis can include:

  • Overuse or repetitive strain on the plantar fascia from standing, walking, or running can cause micro-tears and inflammation.
  • Wearing shoes with inadequate arch support or poor cushioning. High heels and flip-flops alter how we walk, which can increase strain on the fascia.
  • Carrying extra weight, which puts pressure on the plantar fascia.
  • Flat feet or high arches can change weight distribution and lead to plantar fascia stress.
  • Loss of elasticity in the fascia from age. Plantar fasciitis is more common in middle-aged individuals.
  • Participating in new or high-impact activities that increase pressure on the soles of the feet.
  • Standing on hard surfaces for long periods, which is common for nurses, teachers or people who work in factories

Common symptoms

Plantar fasciitis causes heel pain, especially in the morning or after prolonged sitting. The pain may subside as the foot warms up but often returns after prolonged standing or physical activity.

Other common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the arch of the foot
  • Soreness in the affected area
  • Lumps or knots along the plantar fascia
  • Foot stiffness that makes it difficult to bend the toes or stretch the arch
  • Pain that radiates from the heel and affects the entire sole of the foot

Treatment options

If you suspect you have plantar fasciitis, consult an orthopedic specialist for a proper diagnosis. The diagnosis typically involves a physical examination and a discussion of your medical history and symptoms. In some cases, imaging tests may help rule out other conditions, like stress fractures or tendonitis.

Plantar fasciitis can often be managed with conservative treatments, such as:

  • Resting the affected foot.
  • Reducing or modifying activities to help alleviate symptoms.
  • Gentle stretching exercises for the calf muscles and the Achilles tendon to help reduce tension on the plantar fascia.
  • Wearing custom orthotic inserts to provide additional arch support and cushioning.
  • Applying an ice pack to the affected area can relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Heat therapy, such as warm foot baths or heating pads, can promote blood flow and relax the muscles.
  • Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Night splints to hold the foot in a flexed position overnight, which helps stretch the plantar fascia and prevents morning pain.

A physical therapist may provide an exercise program to strengthen the muscles supporting the arch of the foot and improve flexibility. They may also suggest the Graston technique, soft tissue mobilization therapy to loosen or break up tight areas of the foot.

Your orthopaedic doctor may recommend steroid injections to reduce inflammation and pain as a treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Surgery is rarely necessary for plantar fasciitis and is typically reserved for severe cases that do not respond to other treatments. Surgical procedures involve releasing or removing part of the plantar fascia.

Most people can find relief from painful plantar fasciitis with proper treatment and prevention. If you have heel pain, do not hesitate to get help from a medical professional to prevent the condition from worsening.

Cary and Raleigh Foot Specialists

If you are experiencing heel pain, consult an orthopedic specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Early intervention and a comprehensive approach to treatment are key to successfully managing plantar fasciitis or other foot conditions.