Heel pain is most often caused by Planter Fasciitis. Over 2 million Americans suffer from this uncomfortable condition, which is caused by the breakdown of the heel area or an injury to the foot. It can affect one or both feet and the pain is most sever first thing in the morning. Activity can make it worse or standing on the feet for long periods. This article can help you understand more about this condition, how it is treated, and some helpful tips to relieve discomfort.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition of the heel. The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes on the bottom of the foot. It is the shock absorber protecting your delicate foot bones from impact. When the strain is too much, the tissue can tear, which leads to inflammation. The pain is stabbing in nature and is most common when getting out of bed in the morning. After walking for a little while, the plantar area stretches and the pain is relieved. It can come back if you are on your feet for too long or do too much during the day.
People who run tend to get plantar fasciitis or those who have flat feet and don’t wear shoes with good support.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis & Risk Factors
The causes and risk factors of plantar fasciitis include:
Age between 40 and 60 years old
Exercise that stresses the heel for example ballet, running, dance & aerobics
Flat feet or an unusually high arch
Jobs that require standing for long periods of time
The onset of plantar fasciitis may have little to no symptoms at all. It may just feel like a slight bruise to the heel and slight pain. Many people ignore the pain when it is mild and do not seek treatment. This can lead to severe inflammation to the area with stabbing pain to the heel. The pain is most severe when you take your first step in the morning, after exercise, and after sitting or standing for long periods of time.
If you have sharp and stabbing pain to the heel area, see your doctor or ask for a referral to a podiatrist. The doctor will ask you about your physical activities and examine your foot. They may press on the heel to check for pain. The following tests may be helpful, but usually not necessary:
X-Ray. An x-ray can to rule out bone spurs on the heel that may be causing the pain.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging – MRI. – An MRI may be done to make sure there is no small fracture, pinched nerves, or other issues that may be painful.
If all other foot issues are ruled out, the doctor can easily diagnose you with plantar fasciitis and work with you on a treatment plan.
Often, the doctor will suggest proper fitting shoes with good support. Then it is usually recommended to do stretching exercises until the inflammation clears up. Ice can help relieve any pain and swelling, Use an ice pack 3 to 4 times a day for 20 minutes each. Other treatments include:
Anti-Inflammatories. You may need to take anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and inflammation. It is usually used for the first two weeks, then stopped for one week. If the pain is not yet gone, the doctor may have you use it for another two weeks, then off for one week. It is important to eat with anti-inflammatories to prevent stomach upset.
Arch Supports. The doctor may have you see a specialist that can make inserts for your shoes to give your arches support. You can also buy arch supports over-the-counter. These help relieve the pressure from the plantar fascia.
Stretching Exercises. You need to stretch your Achilles tendon to help limber up your foot before any type of exercise and standing. Follow these steps:
Stand facing a wall about an arm’s length away from you.
Place the unaffected foot forward and the affected foot behind with the toes pointed forward.
Place your hands on the wall and lean in to the wall.
Bend the unaffected knee and keep the affected leg straight placing the heel of the affected side flat on the ground.
Hold the position for 10 seconds and release.
Do this 10 times at least 3 times daily.
Splints. You may need to wear a splint on your foot at night to help stretch the fascia.
Boot Cast. For more severe cases, the doctor may have to place you in a boot cast to allow the inflammation to subside and the foot to heal.
Do your stretches every day.
Use an ice pack for up to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times daily.
Do not wear high heels and use a good shoe with arch support.
Do not go barefoot.
Lose extra weight to relieve the stress on your feet.
If you run, get new running shoes every 500 miles of running.
If you don’t get treatment for plantar fasciitis you may begin to have problems with muscles farther up the leg including; knee, foot, back, and hip. You may develop heel pain that does not go away and you may not be able to do your usual daily activities.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2015, September 5). Plantar Fasciitis. Retrieved from American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society: https://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-heel/Pages/Plantar-Fasciitis.aspx/
Landorf, K. a. (2008, February 5). Plantar Heel Pain and Fasciitis. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907928/
Mayo Clinic. (2014, February 27). Plantar Fasciitis: Definition. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664
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