Plantar fasciitis is a common foot injury that causes heel pain. It happens when a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia (the tissue at the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes), becomes inflamed. Plantar fasciitis is common in runners, people wearing improper shoes and people suffering from obesity.
What Are the Main Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is overstretched or overused. People with flat feet or high arches are at high risk of developing plantar fasciitis, as are people with a tight Achilles tendon. Plantar fasciitis is also more common in people between the ages of 40-70 due to the everyday strain and stress wearing down the ligament.
Long distance runners are at high risk of developing plantar fasciitis, as are workers who are on their feet often, such as factory workers or waiters/waitresses. The stress of being on your feet most of the day can cause inflammation, leading to plantar fasciitis.
Due to the increased pressure on the plantar fascia ligaments, people who are overweight or obese are also at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Sudden weight gain can also increase this risk. Pregnant women can also be affected, especially during the later terms.
Heel spurs have been blamed for causing plantar fasciitis, but this is not true. A heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone, and only a few people actually feel pain from it.
Common Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is experiencing pain in the heel after taking the first steps of the morning when getting out of bed or after sitting for a long period of time. Other symptoms include:
- Pain and stiffness in the heel during the morning or after resting that gets better after walking around for a short time but worsens as the day progresses;
- Pain that increases when climbing stairs or standing on your toes;
- Pain after standing for long periods of time;
- Pain at the beginning of an exercise that goes away but returns once the exercise is completed.
Signs to look out for if you are suffering from plantar fasciitis are:
- Tenderness at the bottom of the foot;
- Foot swelling and redness;
- Stiffness or tightness of the arch at the bottom of the foot.
If not properly treated, plantar fasciitis can cause long-term foot pain, as well as a limp due to the pain and inflammation. The change in your walking patterns can cause knee, hip, or back problems. In some cases, the plantar fascia may tear completely.
How is Plantar Fasciitis Treated and How Can I Manage my Symptoms?
Some first treatment options to treat plantar fasciitis may include:
- Seeking the help of a health practitioner, who may recommend any of the following options;
- Heel and foot stretching exercises;
- Wearing a splint while sleeping to help stretch the foot to reduce the stress on the plantar fascia;
- Resting and keep off your feet for at least a week;
- Wearing shoes with good support and cushions;
- Applying ice to the area affected by pain at least twice a day for 10-15 minutes until the pain is gone;
- Taping your foot to help support and decrease the stress on the plantar fascia;
- Massaging the foot to help relieve the inflammation and pain.
If these steps do not work, a doctor may recommend taking these steps:
- Wearing a walking boot for 3-6 weeks;
- Wearing custom-made shoe inserts;
- Steroid shots or injections into the heel;
- In the most serious cases, surgery may be required to repair the ligament.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis can last from a few months to 2 years before any improvement is seen.
Prevention is the Best Cure
Taking care of your feet is important in preventing plantar fasciitis from occurring. Don’t wear worn out shoes at work or while exercising. Find shoes with good arch support and heel cushioning. If at all possible, if you must stand for long periods of time, try to stand on a soft surface, such as a rubber mat. If there is no soft surface at work to stand on, you can talk to the HR department and ask if they can provide one or if you can bring a mat in.
Stretching exercises that focus on the Achilles tendon is important, especially if playing sports. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying at a healthy weight will lower the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
While exercising, slowly increase the intensity. This will allow your body to get used to the exercise and prevent injuries. Proper posture while running can also reduce the stress on your limbs and feet and help prevent injury as well.