What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis occurs in in the heel and sole of the feet. When you first get up after a night’s sleep or a daytime rest, you experience sharp pain when putting weight on these areas. Flexing your foot may also trigger pain from plantar fasciitis. About one-third of those with the condition are affected in both feet but most have it in only one. Plantar fasciitis develops slowly over time, usually originating in the heel and moving forward toward the toes. You can often alleviate your symptoms without extreme measures like surgery. The name of the malady comes from the plantar area, or sole, of your foot and the connecting tissue, or fascia, that extends from your heel to your toes. The tissue sustains minute tears that become inflamed, thus causing pain along the length of your foot.
What Are the Symptoms?
Pain in the heel and sole of your foot when you walk is the primary symptom of plantar fasciitis. People typically do not run a fever or have other noticeable symptoms. The most severe pain occurs when you first get up, and it tends to lessen as the fascia and muscles warm up. However, if you remain on your feet for most of the day, the pain will worsen as the day goes on. Climbing stairs may cause a flare-up. Getting off your feet will ease the discomfort. If the pain continues during the night when you are in bed, you may not have plantar fasciitis. Instead, you may have arthritis, a pinched nerve, tarsal tunnel syndrome or a foot injury.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Although the medical community has yet to pinpoint a single cause for plantar fasciitis, strain on your foot is most often at fault. Strain can result from rolling your feet inward or outward when you walk. Standing on a hard surface for prolonged periods may also cause strain. Additional risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:
- High arches or flat feet
- Walking with the feet rolling too far inward
- Poorly fitting shoes
- Wearing high heels for prolonged periods
- Tight Achilles tendons and/or calf muscles
- Being between 40 and 60 years of age
- Practicing certain types of exercise that puts pressure on your feet, such as running, dancing, or tennis
Who Gets It?
People who are on their feet often are most likely to get plantar fasciitis. For example, if you are a teacher, a nurse, a factory worker, a patrol officer, a foot soldier or a physician, you are at greater risk for this painful condition.
How Can You Cure It?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most of those with plantar fasciitis can overcome it within a few months with relatively conservative treatment. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers containing ibuprofen or naproxen will address your pain and inflammation in the short-term (check with your doctor, of course). More importantly, for longer-lasting relief, give your feet a break and practice some gentle stretching of the affected area and light physical therapy. Massage along the sole from heel to toe to relieve pain and gently soothe the inflammation. Use a small foam roller to deliver a smooth, non-invasive massage along the bottom of your foot that will aid in your daily stretching and therapeutic routine. You should also work to strengthen nearby muscles that can help absorb some of the pressure that walking, running and standing exerts on your feet. Runners have found that even using RistRoller® (mini foam roller) for a few minutes every few days did "amazing things." Read more about RistRolling for runners here.
From simple foot flexes to ankle and calf strengthening exercises, incorporating therapy into your regular fitness regimen will help. Your physician may recommend orthotic shoes to resolve habitual inward or outward rolling of the feet if that is causing your pain. If you do not need orthotics, you can be kind to your feet by wearing shoes that fit well and are comfortable. If your condition does not respond to the above measures, your doctor may prescribe steroid injections into the painful parts of your foot. Another option is shock wave therapy, which relies on sound waves that stimulate your plantar area and encourage healing. In extreme cases, you may need surgery to separate your plantar ligament from your heel bone.
Plantar fasciitis is not a condition you can ignore because it will only worsen. The best approach to healing is gentle and non-invasive. Slow stretching of the fascia and light daily massage are likely to help the healing process and eliminate the pain.
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