Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel discomfort. Around ten percent of people will suffer from it during their lifetime. It’s often a problem for runners, and it can be very painful and debilitating.
Most people will recover from this disorder within six months or so without the need for surgery. There’s a lot that you can do yourself to speed up your recovery. Here’s everything you need to know about this unpleasant problem.
Ligaments in Our Feet
Plantar fasciitis produces pain in the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia is a ligament which connects the heel to the front of the foot. It supports the arch of your feet and helps us to walk.
These ligaments get a lot of wear and tear in your daily life. They behave a little bit like shock absorbers. If there’s too much pressure on your feet for long periods of time, these ligaments can become damaged.
The plantar fascia then becomes inflamed, and this, in turn, causes heel problems. The discomfort often manifests itself as a stabbing pain. It usually starts with your first steps in the morning. It may then decrease during the day.
The pain is usually worse after exercise than during it. You may also experience pain after long periods of standing or when getting up after sitting.
Those at Most Risk of Plantar Fasciitis
There’s a greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis if you are overweight or obese. This is because of the increased pressure on your plantar fascia ligaments. Women may experience plantar fasciitis during pregnancy.
If you’re a long-distance runner, your feet are going to be taking a hammering. You could, therefore, be more likely to develop this kind of heel pain. It’s important to wear shoes that support your feet properly.
Those who have active jobs which mean they’re often on their feet all day are also more likely to suffer from plantar fascia problems. People aged between forty and seventy and who are very active are at the highest risk.
Plantar Fasciitis is slightly more common in women than in men. If you have very high arches or very flat feet, you may also be at higher risk.
The condition can also be caused by wearing shoes with inadequate support. This could include wearing flip-flops for long periods of time.
Your physician will perform a physical exam to check for tenderness in your foot. They’ll be looking for the precise location of the pain to ensure that it’s not the result of another problem.
Your doctor may need you to flex your foot while they push on the plantar fascia ligament. This is so they can find out if the pain gets worse as you flex and better as you point your toe. They’ll also be checking for any redness or swelling.
It’s possible that an X-ray or a scan may be required to check that nothing else, such as a bone fracture, is causing your heel pain. Plantar Fasciitis often only affects one foot.
Common Treatments Options
Part of any treatment will involve reducing inflammation in the plantar fascia ligament. This, however, doesn’t address the underlying damage to the ligament itself. That will require further therapy.
Treatment Starts at Home
Here, treatment will include staying off your feet and applying ice to the heel. For best results, this needs to be done for a period of fifteen to twenty minutes and three or four times a day.
This is going to help reduce the swelling and ease the pain. You could even use a bag of frozen peas as an alternative to ice. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen will also help.
Stretching for plantar fasciitis is also recommended. These types of exercises can break up adhesions, and stimulate circulation. Massaging and rolling the heel can also help to relieve tension through the muscle layers of the feet.
Types of Medical Treatment
Your doctor may recommend an injection of a corticosteroid directly into the damaged area of the ligament. They would be able to do this at their office. They may use an ultrasound device to determine the right place for the injection.
Alternatively, your doctor can apply the corticosteroids directly onto the skin of the foot. They may then apply a painless electrical current. This allows the steroid to pass through your skin and into the muscle more effectively.
More aggressive treatment could involve extracorporeal shock wave therapy. Sound waves will bombard your heel to stimulate healing within the ligament. This type of therapy hasn’t been proven to always be effective, however.
Surgery could be required but this would be unusual and not required in the majority cases. There are risks in some procedures, such as a weakening in the arch of the foot and loss of full functionality.
Braces and Supports
Night splints are another treatment that can help to stretch the arch of your foot. These are a type of brace that holds your foot in a flexed position and lengthens the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon during the night.
Special orthotics, or arch supports, for your shoes may also help to reduce some of the pain by distributing pressure. They can also help to stop further damage to the plantar fascia.
Wearing a boot cast will immobilize your foot and lessen the strain while the plantar fascia is healing. It can be removed for bathing.
Inserting gel supports in the rear of shoes can also offer relief. They help to cushion the heel from the pressure put on the foot when walking.
The Road to Recovery
Plantar fasciitis does take a long time to recover from. This can be anything from several months and up to two years. A lot of patience is required.
The best advice is to take measures to mitigate the risks of getting it. This includes wearing shoes that give the best possible support to the feet at all times.
Continue reading the health and wellness section on our site. Here you’ll find more useful articles about other conditions and diseases.
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