Millions of men and women suffer from the debilitating effects of heel pain. The most common source of this pain is plantar fasciitis, a condition caused by inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis is common in runners and anyone who is on their feet for long periods of time. People who are overweight, women who are pregnant, and those who wear shoes that lack arch support are also at risk for developing plantar fasciitis.
Causes of plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis affects all age groups and is one of the most common complaints relating to the foot. It is caused by damage to the ligament (plantar fascia) that supports the arch of the foot.
The plantar fascia ligament is like a rubber band that stretches and contracts with movement. It absorbs both weight and pressure. Repeated strain from various types of activity can cause small tears in the ligament, which produces sharp pain in the heel.
Factors that may increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis include:
- Age (plantar fasciitis is more common in people age 40-60).
- Excessive pronation (inward roll of your feet when you walk).
- Foot problems (flat feet or high arches place added stress on the plantar fascia).
- Improper shoes (no arch support).
- Obesity or significant weight gain.
Plantar fasciitis symptoms
Plantar fasciitis produces a stabbing or throbbing pain in the heel of the foot. The pain is usually sharpest in the morning and tends to fade to a dull ache over the course of the day. Pain will often reappear following physical activity or with movement after a long period of sitting down.
Plantar fasciitis usually affects only one foot, but it can occur in both feet though it is rare.
Treatment of plantar fasciitis
No single treatment will work for everyone, but most people who develop plantar fasciitis can reduce their heel pain in just a few months with proper home care. Conservative treatment is successful in 90 percent of cases.
Initial treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication.
- Orthotic inserts.
- Physical therapy and stretching.
- Resting and icing your foot.
If pain persists, you should tell your doctor. Surgery to release the taut ligament is an option, and your physician can prescribe steroid injections to reduce pain. It is important to be consistent with your treatment. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year for the pain associated with plantar fasciitis to disappear.