Plantar fasciitis occurs when there is inflammation in your plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue located across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone and toes. These tissues are the ones that support the arch of the foot and muscles and helps you walk.
When there are stretched to their limit, tiny tears can occurs resulting to pain and inflammation. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common cause of heel pain and affects about 2 million patients each year.
People who suffer from plantar fasciitis normally experience a stabbing pain that commonly happens with their first steps in the morning. The pain usually decreases as they get up and get moving but might return after extended period of standing or rising from a seated position. This condition can be commonly observed in runners. Also, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes that lack support face more risk of plantar fasciitis.
Medical specialists used to think that plantar fasciitis was caused by heel spurs (bony growths). Now, it is believed that heel spurs are the result, and not the cause, of pain due to plantar fasciitis.
What are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
Those suffering from plantar fasciitis often complain of pain on the bottom of their heel, while some may feel pain at the bottom mid-foot area. The pain develops gradually and usually affects only one foot, though pain in both feet is not unheard of. Pain due to plantar fasciitis is usually described as dull. Some people may also experience sharp pain or a burning ache on the bottom part of the foot, extending from the heel outward.
Most common symptoms include:
- Pain on the bottom of the foot near the heel
- Pain with the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, or after a long period of rest. The pain may subside after a few minutes of activity
- Greater pain after exercise
Pain can get worse and flare up after prolonged physical activity due to increased inflammation. Pain isn't often felt during exercise but rather just after stopping. Climbing stairs can also be very difficult because of heel stiffness.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
There are many factors attributed to plantar fasciitis. It's more common in women, though men can also get it. People who are older, overweight or on their feet several hours a day are also more likely to suffer from this condition.
Your risk also increases if you:
- Wear shoes with improper support
- Have flat feet or very high arch
- Wear high-heeled shoes often
- Have tight Achilles tendons (heel cords)
- Have an unusual walk or foot position
- Are overweight or obese
- Repetitive impact activity like running
The plantar fascia is designed to be able to the high stresses and strains we place on our feet. Under normal circumstances, it acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring and can support the arch in your foot. If you put too much pressure on it and damages or tears the tissues of your feet, the body's natural response would be inflammation. This results in the heel pain and stiffness of plantar fasciitis.
Lifestyle and Home Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
Try these suggested self-care tips to reduce the pain of plantar fasciitis:
- Maintain a healthy weight to minimize stress on your plantar fascia.
- Choose supportive shoes. Avoid high heels and don't go barefoot, especially on hard surfaces.
- Replace your athletic shoes before they stop supporting and cushioning your feet. If you're a runner, buy new shoes after about 400 to 500 miles of use.
- Try a low-impact sport, such as swimming or bicycling, instead of walking or jogging.
- Apply ice. Regular ice massage can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Exercise and stretch your arches. Simple home exercises can stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
- Rest. Decreasing or even stopping the activities that make the pain worse is the first step in reducing the pain.
Most people who have plantar fasciitis recover after in several months with conservative treatments, including resting, icing the painful area and stretching.