Anyone who has ever suffered from plantar fasciitis will agree: it’s more than just a case of a sore foot. WAY MORE!! Try the sensation of a railroad spike jammed into your heel. If you are a victim of plantar fasciitis, this description of the nagging, painful foot condition probably sounds all too familiar.
Plantar fasciitis afflicts a whopping 10% of the modern world. In the United States alone, that translates into 30 million people hobbled by the agonizing injury during their lifetime. These staggering numbers are amplified by the fact that no magic pill or quick fix exists to treat plantar fasciitis. Surgery rarely helps. Steroid injections can worsen the situation. Yet doing nothing about the condition could be the worst choice of all. Ignoring plantar fasciitis completely can result in its becoming a permanent fixture in your life.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar Fasciitis Risk Factors:
- Age. Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Sex. Women are more likely than are men to develop plantar fasciitis.
- Certain types of exercise. Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue — such as long-distance running, ballet dancing and dance aerobics — can contribute to an earlier onset of plantar fasciitis.
- Faulty foot mechanics. Being flat-footed, having a high arch or even having an abnormal pattern of walking can adversely 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.
- Improper shoes. Avoid loose, thin-soled shoes, as well as shoes without enough arch support or flexible padding to absorb shock. If you regularly wear high heels, your Achilles tendon — which is attached to your heel — can contract and shorten, causing strain on the tissue around your heel.
How Do to Treat Plantar Fasciitis at Home?
- Put your feet up. Stay off your feet for several days when the pain is severe.
- Apply ice. Hold a cloth-covered ice pack over the area of pain for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day or after activity. Or try ice massage. Freeze a water-filled paper cup and roll it over the site of discomfort for about five to seven minutes. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Decrease your miles. You probably won’t have to permanently retire your running or walking shoes, but it’s a good idea to cover shorter distances until pain subsides.
- Take up a no- or low-impact exercise. Swap swimming or bicycling in for walking or jogging. You’ll likely be able to return to your regular activities as heel pain gradually improves. However, some people find that the only way to avoid a recurring problem is to give up high-impact activities, such as running and some forms of dance.
- Add arch supports to your shoes. Inexpensive over-the-counter arch supports take the tension off the plantar fascia and help absorb shock. The best shoe for Plantar Fasciitis is New Balance Tennis Shoes. I don’t normally advocate for a certain brand, but it in this case. This brand has been tried and found to help plantar fasciitis greatly!
- Stretch your arches. Simple exercises using household objects can stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
Treatments and Medications:
About 90 percent of the people who have plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments in just a few months.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve), may ease pain and inflammation, although they won’t treat the underlying problem.
- Corticosteroids. This type of medication may be delivered through a process called iontophoresis, in which a corticosteroid solution is applied to the skin over the painful area and the medication is absorbed with the aid of a nonpainful electric current. Another delivery method is injection. 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. Ultrasound guidance is sometimes used for more accurate placement of the corticosteroid injection.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can instruct you in a series of exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles, which stabilize your ankle and heel. A therapist may also teach you to apply athletic taping to support the bottom of your foot.
- Night splints. Your physical therapist or doctor may recommend wearing a splint that stretches your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight and facilitates stretching.
Surgical or other procedures
When more-conservative measures aren’t working, your doctor might recommend:
- 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.
You can take some simple steps now to prevent painful steps later:
- Maintain a healthy weight. This minimizes the stress on your plantar fascia.
- Choose supportive shoes. Avoid high heels. Buy shoes with a low to moderate heel, good arch support and shock absorbency. Don’t go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.
- Don’t wear worn-out athletic shoes. Replace your old athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet. If you’re a runner, buy new shoes after about 500 miles of use.
Prevention is always the key!
Do you have plantar fasciitis, or have you had it? What did you do for it? Take a moment and let me know!