Plantar fasciitis is a common painful disorder affecting the heel and underside of the foot. It is a disorder of the insertion site of plantar fascia on the bone and is characterized by scarring,
inflammation, or structural breakdown of the footâs plantar fascia. It is often caused by overuse injury of the plantar fascia, increases in exercise, weight or age. Although plantar fasciitis was
originally thought to be an inflammatory process, newer studies have demonstrated structural changes more consistent with a degenerative process. As a result of this new observation, many in the
academic community have stated the condition should be renamed plantar fasciosis.
Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension on that bowstring becomes too great, it can create small tears in
the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed.
The major complaint of those with plantar fasciitis is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. This develops gradually over time. It usually affects just one foot, but can affect both feet.
Some people describe the pain as dull, while others experience a sharp pain, and some feel a burning or ache on the bottom of the foot extending outward from the heel. The pain is usually worse in
the morning when you take your first steps out of bed, or if youâve been sitting or lying down for a while. Climbing stairs can be very difficult due to the heel stiffness. After prolonged
activity, the pain can flare-up due to increased inflammation. Pain is not usually felt during the activity, but rather just after stopping.
Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by a health care provider after consideration of a personâs presenting history, risk factors, and clinical examination. Tenderness to palpation along the
inner aspect of the heel bone on the sole of the foot may be elicited during the physical examination. The foot may have limited dorsiflexion due to tightness of the calf muscles or the Achilles
tendon. Dorsiflexion of the foot may elicit the pain due to stretching of the plantar fascia with this motion. Diagnostic imaging studies are not usually needed to diagnose plantar fasciitis.
However, in certain cases a physician may decide imaging studies (such as X-rays, diagnostic ultrasound or MRI) are warranted to rule out other serious causes of foot pain. Bilateral heel pain or
heel pain in the context of a systemic illness may indicate a need for a more in-depth diagnostic investigation. Lateral view x-rays of the ankle are the recommended first-line imaging modality to
assess for other causes of heel pain such as stress fractures or bone spur development. Plantar fascia aponeurosis thickening at the heel greater than 5 millimeters as demonstrated by ultrasound is
consistent with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. An incidental finding associated with this condition is a heel spur, a small bony calcification on the calcaneus (heel bone), which can be found in
up to 50% of those with plantar fasciitis. In such cases, it is the underlying plantar fasciitis that produces the heel pain, and not the spur itself. The condition is responsible for the creation of
the spur though the clinical significance of heel spurs in plantar fasciitis remains unclear.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis begins with simple steps. There are a number of options for treatment of plantar fasciitis, and almost always some focused effort with nonsurgical
treatments can provide excellent relief. In rare circumstances, simple steps are not adequate at providing relief, and more invasive treatments may be recommended. Typically, patients progress from
simple steps, and gradually more invasive treatments, and only rarely is surgery required.
Surgery is rarely needed in the treatment of plantar fasciitis. The vast majority of patients diagnosed with plantar fasciitis will recover given ample time. With some basic treatment steps, well
over 90% of patients will achieve full recovery from symptoms of plantar fasciitis within one year of the onset of treatment. Simple treatments include anti-inflammatory medication, shoe inserts, and
stretching exercises. In patients where a good effort with these treatments fails to provide adequate relief, some more aggressive treatments may be attempted. These include cortisone injections or
extracorporeal shock wave treatments.
Stretching exercises for your foot are important. Do the stretches shown here at least twice a day. Don't bounce when you stretch. Plantar fascia stretch. To do the plantar fascia stretch, stand
straight with your hands against a wall and your injured leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower
part of your leg. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch 6 to 8 times. Calf stretch. Stand with your hands against a wall and your injured leg behind your other leg. With your
injured leg straight, your heel flat on the floor and your foot pointed straight ahead, lean slowly forward, bending the other leg. You should feel the stretch in the middle of your calf. Hold the
stretch for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat the stretch 6 to 8 times. Other exercises. You can also strengthen your leg muscles by standing on the ball of your foot at the edge of a step and raising up as
high as possible on your toes. Relax between toe raises and let your heel fall a little lower than the edge of the step. It's also helpful to strengthen the foot by grabbing a towel with your toes as
if you are going to pick up the towel with your foot. Repeat this exercise several times a day.