Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition of the foot affecting the arched area on the underside of the foot between the ball and the heel. This area is home to the plantar fascia, or the arch tendon of the foot. It commonly affects those who wear inappropriate footwear for long periods of time, those who walk or stand for long periods, sports people who over stretch or exert the area beyond normal limits and women, in particular those over 40 years of age.
Causes of Plantar FasciitisOver stretching the arch of the foot, such as wearing extremely high-heeled shoes, particularly for a long time, can result in the tissue becoming irritated and inflamed. For those who participate in sports, a badly supported foot arch will become painful when training is long or difficult, and those who participate in high impact sport such as jumping events, gymnastics and dancing will also be more susceptible to damaging this fascia.
The pain is often experienced in the arch of the foot and mainly in the heel area as the fascia becomes stretched. Very tight or short calf muscles can lead to straining the plantar fascia, as the foot adapts to the problem by becoming over-pronated, meaning that the foot falls inwards, forcing the arch to the floor.
Signs and SymptomsThe most common and sometimes only symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain. This pain can begin as short episodes of pain felt in the heel area, growing in strength and duration often spreading along the outer edge of the foot.It is often worse after long periods of rest, especially in the morning after sleep, but should ease as the tissues become warmed up with mobility.For those who are unaware of the problem, it can be spotted by others as the foot rolls inwards changing normal pace and step appearance.
Treating Plantar FasciitisInitial treatment for this condition includes pain relief and anti-inflammatory medications, though this is not recommended for long-term use. Resting the affected limb will help, but only until the pain has subsided.
Ice therapy may be useful as long as the ice pack is not applied directly to the skin in order to prevent an ice burn occurring. Wrapping the pack in a tea towel or flannel will help avoid this.Long-term treatment options include the use of more supportive footwear, perhaps using an arch support or orthotic device to help prevent the foot rolling inwards.
Stretching and exercises designed specifically for lengthening the plantar fascia and helping it become more flexible and stronger will help to prevent the condition occurring again.For those whose pain persists, the use of steroid injections may prove beneficial but this again is not a long-term option and may not be an option for competing athletes.For some, a heel spur can occur, which may need surgical correction in order to relieve pain long term.
Plantar fasciitis can be a very painful and debilitating condition affecting quality of life and interrupting with employment. The issues surrounding the cause of the condition should be addressed, not solely lessening pain and inflammation.