The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the underneath of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. At the heel it can also have fascial connections to the achilles
tendon. Its job is to maintain the arch of the foot, it acts as a bowstring pulled between the heel and the toes. "Itis" as a suffix indicates inflammation, but with the plantar fascia there is still
some controversy over what exactly happens to the tissue when it becomes painful.
There are multiple potential causes and contributing factors to plantar fasciitis heel pain. The structure of a personâs foot and the way that they walk or run usually play a significant role in
the development of plantar fasciitis. Those with an arch that is lower or higher than the average person are more likely to be afflicted. Overexertion and/or participating in activities that a person
is not accustomed to also place a person at risk. This can include a heavy workout, a job change, or even an extended shopping trip. Additionally, inappropriate shoes are also often a factor.
Exercising in shoes that are worn out or donât have enough support and/or wearing inexpensive, flimsy or flat-soled dress or casual shoes are common culprits. In warm climates, such as here in
Southern California, people who wear flip-flop sandals or even go barefoot throughout the year increase their chances of developing heel pain. Many athletes and weekend warriors develop heel or arch
pain from over-exertion during running or other sports. People who work at jobs that involve long periods of standing, such as grocery checkers, cashiers, warehouse workers, postal workers, and
teachers are more susceptible as well. Adults of all ages can develop plantar fasciitis. Heel pain in children is usually caused by a different type of condition.
Plantar fasciitis and heel spur pain usually begins in the bottom of the heel, and frequently radiates into the arch. At times, however, the pain may be felt only in the arch. The pain is most
intense when first standing, after any period of rest. Most people with this problem experience their greatest pain in the morning, with the first few steps after sleeping. After several minutes of
walking, the pain usually becomes less intense and may disappear completely, only to return later with prolonged walking or standing. If a nerve is irritated due to the swollen plantar fascia, this
pain may radiate into the ankle. In the early stages of Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs, the pain will usually subside quickly with getting off of the foot and resting. As the disease progresses, it
may take longer periods of time for the pain to subside.
During the physical exam, your doctor checks for points of tenderness in your foot. The location of your pain can help determine its cause. Usually no tests are necessary. The diagnosis is made based
on the history and physical examination. Occasionally your doctor may suggest an X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to make sure your pain isn't being caused by another problem, such as a
stress fracture or a pinched nerve. Sometimes an X-ray shows a spur of bone projecting forward from the heel bone. In the past, these bone spurs were often blamed for heel pain and removed
surgically. But many people who have bone spurs on their heels have no heel pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
Usually, the pain will ease in time. 'Fascia' tissue, like 'ligament' tissue, heals quite slowly. It may take several months or more to go. However, the following treatments may help to speed
recovery. A combination of different treatments may help. Collectively, these initial treatments are known as 'conservative' treatments for plantar fasciitis. Rest your foot. This should be done as
much as possible. Avoid running, excess walking or standing, and undue stretching of your sole. Gentle walking and exercises described below are fine. Footwear. Do not walk barefoot on hard surfaces.
Choose shoes with cushioned heels and a good arch support. A laced sports shoe rather than an open sandal is probably best. Avoid old or worn shoes that may not give a good cushion to your heel. Heel
pads and arch supports. You can buy various pads and shoe inserts to cushion the heel and support the arch of your foot. These work best if you put them in your shoes at all times. The aim is to
raise your heel by about 1 cm. If your heel is tender, cut a small hole in the heel pad at the site of the tender spot. This means that the tender part of your heel will not touch anything inside
your shoe. Place the inserts/pads in both shoes, even if you only have pain in one foot. Pain relief. Painkillers such as paracetamol will often ease the pain. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medicines
such as ibuprofen are useful. These are painkillers but also reduce inflammation and may work better than ordinary painkillers. Some people find that rubbing a cream or gel that contains an
anti-inflammatory medicine on to their heel is helpful. An ice pack (such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) held to your foot for 15-20 minutes may also help to relieve pain. Exercises.
Regular, gentle stretching of your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia may help to ease your symptoms. This is because most people with plantar fasciitis have a slight tightness of their Achilles
tendon. If this is the case, it tends to pull at the back of your heel and has a knock-on effect of keeping your plantar fascia tight. Also, when you are asleep overnight, your plantar fascia tends
to tighten up (which is why it is usually most painful first thing in the morning). The aim of these exercises is to loosen up the tendons and fascia gently above and below your heel. Your doctor may
refer you to a physiotherapist for exercise guidance.
In unusual cases, surgical intervention is necessary for relief of pain. These should only be employed after non-surgical efforts have been used without relief. Generally, such surgical procedures
may be completed on an outpatient basis in less than one hour, using local anesthesia or minimal sedation administrated by a trained anesthesiologist. In such cases, the surgeon may remove or release
the injured and inflamed fascia, after a small incision is made in the heel. A surgical procedure may also be undertaken to remove bone spurs, sometimes as part of the same surgery addressing the
damaged tissue. A cast may be used to immobilize the foot following surgery and crutches provided in order to allow greater mobility while keeping weight off the recovering foot during healing. After
removal of the cast, several weeks of physical therapy can be used to speed recovery, reduce swelling and restore flexibility.