The symptoms of plantar fasciitis can be maddeningly effective at draining your motivation. Most people with this condition experience troubles including:
- A sharp jolt of pain in their heels just after getting out of bed in the morning
- A sharp jolt of pain in the heels when starting to move after a long period of inactivity
- Heel pain that worsens after exercising, but not always during it
It almost seems like plantar fasciitis is out to punish you for daring to do much of anything at all. If you feel that way, you’re not alone.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain – if not the most common. It affects a wide range of ages and lifestyles, from office workers to athletes.
The good news, however, is that it’s also highly treatable. The key to finding effective relief is determining and addressing the root of the problem.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot. It connects the base of the toes to the heel bone (calcaneus), and supports the arch of the foot.
The plantar fascia can become inflamed due to an overabundance of force. This can cause tiny tears in the tissue, which then become a source of pain and irritation.
There are several reasons why the plantar fascia can end up in such a situation, including:
- Overuse. If you are an athlete pushing yourself too hard or putting your feet through long periods of repetitive stress without enough rest and recovery, you can damage the fascia. When plantar fasciitis happens like this, it can be classified as a sports injury.
- Abnormalities in foot structure. If you have a biomechanical condition such as flat feet or high arches that places more stress on the plantar fascia, you may be more prone to developing plantar fasciitis. Other structural conditions, such as having tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons, can also create more stress.
- Improper footwear. This includes spending time in shoes that do not properly fit, are worn out, or otherwise fail to provide proper support and cushioning can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
- Long periods of standing. Those who have to be on their feet all day, such as teachers, servers, factory workers, and others are more prone to plantar fasciitis, especially if they spend most of their time on hard surfaces.
Additional risk factors may also be present, depending on your circumstances. Often, there are multiple contributing factors involved.
How to Treat Plantar Fasciitis
There is no single treatment for plantar fasciitis that will be effective for everyone. A proper course of treatment can only be recommended once we have been able to examine the condition and determine the underlying causes.
Fortunately, surgery is only rarely necessary to relieve heel pain from plantar fasciitis. Conservative treatments are effective in the vast majority of cases, and can include:
- Rest and icing
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Corticosteroid injections
- Physical therapy (often in the form of a stretching and exercise regimen)
- Night splints to keep the calf and arch stretched during sleep
- Shockwave therapy to relieve pain and accelerate soft tissue recovery
- Adjustments to footwear, environment, and/or activities
The primary goals of treatment are not only to reduce or completely eliminate the pain, but to help prevent future cases of heel pain from developing in the future.
Plantar Fascia Rupture
In more extreme cases, the plantar fascia may suffer larger tears or rupture completely. This is typically characterized by suddenly occurring (acute) pain in the heel and arch of the foot, as opposed to the more gradually occurring pain of plantar fasciitis. You may also experience bruising or inflammation in the area.
A plantar fascia tear is often the result of trauma, such as landing from a fall, or from intense movement during a sports activity.
Treating a plantar fascia tear may include immobilizing the foot with a cast or boot to allow for healing, and the use of anti-inflammatory and pain-relief medications (potentially including corticosteroid injections). A severe tear or one that is not healing properly may require surgery to repair the plantar fascia.
Find Relief from Your Heel Pain
Whatever you enjoy doing – from running to sports to a satisfying day of work – you don’t need plantar fasciitis or other causes of heel pain holding you back.
Schedule an appointment at our Ladera Ranch office by calling (949) 364-9255 (WALK) or by filling out our online contact form. We’ll be happy to help you on the way to freedom from stubborn heel pain.