Let’s learn: Plantar Fasciitis

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Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of foot and heel pain. 

The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It is attached to the heel bone and connects to each of the toes. It provides strength and support to the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this band of tissue gets strained or irritated.

Treating pain in the heel

Symptoms

Plantar fasciitis  causes pain in the heel or in the arch of the foot. The pain is felt when standing up and walking or after walking, running, or standing for long periods. The pain is usually sharp at first, and it may decrease or become duller after light activity. One or both feet may be affected.

Cause

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is injured from too much pressure or activity.  People who are overweight and people who have tight calf muscles, high-arched feet, or flat feet are at risk of plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is also more common in people who frequently run or perform other high-impact activities like jumping or dancing because these activities may cause small repeated injuries to the plantar fascia over time.

Diagnosis

Plantar fasciitis is diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination performed by a doctor or a physiotherapist. Pressing on the bottom of the foot causes pain and confirms the problem.  Investigations or other tests are usually not needed to make the diagnosis, but they are sometimes used to rule out other causes of foot pain such as a broken bone or nerve injury.

Treatment

Simple measures can often be taken to lessen the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.  Acute pain caused by sudden increase in high impact exercise can be reduced by stopping or decreasing the activity.

Daily stretching of the plantar fascia and the calf muscles should be performed. For some immediate relief, ice can be applied to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time 2 to 3 times per day. Wearing shoes with good arch supports or shoe inserts for arches can also improve symptoms.

Ingestion of anti-imflammatory medications also help in immediate relief of pain.

If pain persists, medication injections may be given into the foot to reduce the pain. Most people experience improvement or resolution of symptoms over time. Rarely, if the pain does not subside after prolonged treatment, surgery may be considered. It is also advisable to get in touch with a physiotherapist without delay.

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