You wake up in the morning and your first steps out of bed are excruciating beyond belief. If you experience severe pain in the heel of your foot, you may have to take a break from your busy everyday duties because chances are that you have Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the leading causes of heel pain due to injury of the plantar fascia. In normal cases, your fascia is a shock absorbing tissue which supports the arch of your foot. It’s a tough, fibrous band that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. Constant strain on this tissue causes it to become weak and inflamed, resulting in pain and swelling. Pain may decrease when your foot flexes up but there’s a high chance it will return after getting up from a seated position or by prolonged standing.
The following video might help you to better understand Plantar Fasciitis:
Your risk of having plantar fasciitis may increase due to the following factors:
- Your age: If you’re between the ages of 40 and 60, your risk of plantar fasciitis is higher. However, it is common among younger individuals who are often on their feet, such as soldiers, teachers and athletes too.
- Your job: As mentioned earlier, your occupation can play a huge role too. For example, if you’re a teacher, factory worker or athlete, your chances of getting plantar fasciitis are higher because you’re on your feet a lot and stand for long periods on hard surfaces.
- Your exercises: Exercise is great for you but sticking to only certain types of workouts that stress your feet such as long distance running, dance aerobics, ballet dancing etc. may strain your fascia. Ideally you should mix up your routine and add in upper body exercises to give your feet a break too.
- Your weight: Being obese or overweight is another common cause since the extra pounds put more strain on the fascia.
- Your foot mechanics: Having high arches, flat feet or abnormal walking patterns may affect how your weight is distributed on your plantar fascia, while you’re standing, walking or running.
Common signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
- Pain in the heel area or the foot of your foot
- Pain when you take your first steps in the morning after getting out of bed or after prolonged periods of sitting.
- Pain subsides after walking a little but may intensify over time
- Severe foot pain after physical activity
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms so make sure you’re very clear about them. He may conduct a physical examination and X-ray to rule out any other foot-related conditions. Your doctor will check your feet by watching you walk and stand.
He or she may ask you about:
- Your symptoms: Where the pain is located, when does your feet hurt, at what time do you experience the most pain etc.
- Your past health: Any past injuries or illnesses
- Your level of physical activity: How many days you exercise per week, what type of exercises you do etc.
If you notice some signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, it is critical that you see a doctor as soon as possible. Ignoring the condition may lead to chronic heel pain that will interfere with your day to day activities. Plantar fasciitis pain may change your gait as well, which may in turn, result in problems associated with your foot, knee, hip or back.
If you experience heel pain, your first step to successful plantar fasciitis treatment should be to rest your feet from the cause of the pain. For example, if your job requires you to be on your feet most hours of the day, you may have to take a few days off or if intense activity is the reason, sticking to low impact activities such as walking, rowing or swimming may help.
Whether it’s mild or severe pain, seeing a doctor is important. Your doctor may recommend the following steps:
- Resting as much as possible until symptoms subside
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation
- Wearing night splints while sleeping in order to stretch the affected foot
- Heel stretching exercises
- Wearing supportive plantar fasciitis shoes with proper cushioning.
In addition, the following conservative measures will help:
- The RICE treatment: Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate. This is an acronym that you should remember for any type of foot related injury. We’ve already talked about rest, when it comes to applying ice, its best if you use an ice pack or ice cubes wrapped in a towel. Avoid applying ice directly to the affected region as this may damage tissues. Make sure you apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours and after activity. Compress by wrapping a towel or an ace bandage around your foot and Elevate your foot above heart level while you’re resting by propping it over a pillow to reduce swelling.
- Maintain a healthy weight: This will reduce stress on your fascia and will make a huge difference to how you feel and how your fascia feels.
- Choose proper footwear: And avoid high heels. Shoes which have a low to moderate heel and adequate shock absorbency and arch support are great for plantar fasciitis. In addition, you must avoid walking bare feet.
- Modify your exercise routine: As we talked about earlier, modifying your fitness routine may help. So if you’re running 5 times a week for long periods and now suffer from heel pain, you don’t have to avoid activity completely. Low impact activities such as swimming, rowing and cycling are great for health and overall fitness as well and they won’t stress your feet too. You can return to running once you’ve completely recovered but it’s important to reduce your intensity to prevent recurrence of the injury. This can be done by including other activities into your routine that require more upper body work so that your give your feet a break from strenuous activity.
90 percent of patients recover with conservative techniques but in rare cases, surgery may be required.
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