Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. This condition can be present with or without an actual bony heel spur.

Causes

side view of foot showing plantar fasciaHeel pain from plantar fasciitis can flare up when the plantar fascia ligament that stretches from the heel to the ball of the foot – which also supports the arch – becomes inflamed. Calcium deposits may eventually form on the heel bone, resulting in mild to serious heel pain when applying pressure on the foot.

People with flat feet often suffer from plantar fasciitis. As the arch starts to collapse, the band of ligament and the muscle in the bottom of the foot absorbs the impact of pressure from standing or walking. Eventually, it stretches beyond its limits, leading to possible muscle tears and bone spurs. To avoid heel pain, people with flat feet should make a special effort to wear support shoes with arch support.

Other plantar fasciitis causes include:

  • High arches that pull on the muscles.
  • Tight calves muscles caused from poor or little stretching.
  • Muscle tension that pulls away a piece of the bone.

Symptoms

Are your first steps incredibly painful? Plantar fasciitis is the result of foot muscles tightening up overnight. The tightened muscles accentuate the pull on the heel bone spur and ligaments, or plantar fascia, making your first steps painful. You know you have heel pain if getting out of bed in the morning and stepping down makes you want to yell out. In fact, the medical term for heel pain, post-static dyskinesia, means "pain after rest."

You may also notice symptoms of heel pain when:

  • Plunging into exercise without warming up first.
  • Moving after any inactivity, such as sitting in a car or at a desk. The initial movement will result in sharp, shooting heel pain, giving you a sore or painful heel.

Relief and Prevention

Taking the pressure off the foot goes a long way in helping treat plantar fasciitis. Other plantar fasciitis treatment techniques include:

  • Wearing proper footwear for both everyday and sporting activities.
  • Using insoles that support the arch and reduce tension on the ligament.
  • Making use of a heel pad, heel cushion or slight heel lift to relieve pressure and reduce inflammation of the plantar at its attachment to the heel bone.
  • Correcting leg length discrepancy via an adjustable heel lift.
  • Using a heel cup to add extra shock absorption to shoes, thus reducing pressure on heels.
  • Giving the afflicted area an ice massage to reduce inflammation and relieve tension.
  • Stretching calf muscle to reduce tightness.
  • Maintaining length of the tight calf muscle with the use of a night splint.

In severe and chronic cases, heel spurs may require surgical correction.

Stretches

This demonstrates the stretching procedures for plantar fasciitis. The object of these stretches is to loosen the heel cord and the plantar fascia.

plantar fasciitis stretchingIn one exercise, you lean forward against a wall with one knee straight and heel on the ground. Your other knee is bent. Your heel cord and foot arch stretch as you lean. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat 20 times for each sore heel. It is important to keep the knee fully extended on the side being stretched.

plantar fasciitis stretchingIn another exercise, you lean forward onto a countertop, spreading your feet apart with one foot in front of the other. Flex your knees and squat down, keeping your heels on the ground as long as possible. Your heel cords and foot arches will stretch as the heels come up in the stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and straighten up. Repeat 20 times.

You will know if you are getting good stretching if you feel a tightness along the back of your leg and bottom of your foot during the exercise. It may take up to 6 to 8 weeks before you begin to notice an improvement in your symptoms. You should also continue with the stretching program until you have been pain-free for a month.