What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia). Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning. As you get up and move more, the pain normally decreases, but it might return after long periods of standing or after rising from sitting. Plantar fasciitis is more common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support have an increased risk of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis symptoms
Plantar fasciitis typically causes a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel. The pain is usually the worst with the first few steps after awakening, although it can also be triggered by long periods of standing or rising from sitting. The pain is usually worse after exercise, not during it.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension and stress on that bowstring become too great, small tears can arise in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, though in many cases of plantar fasciitis, the cause isn't clear.
How to treat plantar fasciitis?
Most people who have plantar fasciitis recover with conservative treatments, including resting, icing the painful area and stretching, in several months. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease the pain and inflammation associated with plantar fasciitis. Stretching and strengthening exercises or use of specialized devices may provide symptom relief. These include:
- 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 might also teach you to apply athletic taping to support the bottom of your foot.
- Night splints. Your physical therapist or doctor might recommend that you wear 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.
- Orthotics. Your doctor might prescribe off-the-shelf or custom-fitted arch supports (orthotics) to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly.
How to cure plantar fasciitis?
Maintain a healthy weight. Lose weight if you're overweight or obese to minimize 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. 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.
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. Whatever you decide to go with, make sure you avoid cheap shoes and maintain a healthy life.