Stiff, tight objects don’t stretch well. Think about a rubber band or a bungee cord that has gotten old and stiff. It doesn’t stretch well when you need to use it. If you try to force it out, it may not be elastic enough to snap back into place. Connective tissues have a similar issue. They can also get stiff and tight, leaving you in pain. This is the problem with plantar fasciitis.
What Is It?
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It’s a problem with an inflamed, swollen, thickened band of tissue in your sole called the plantar fascia. This band stretches from your heel bone to your toes. It helps form and support the arch of your foot, as well as absorb some pressure when you take a step. However, when this band thickens and swells, it becomes much less flexible. This means it pulls on your heel bone whenever you put pressure on your foot and forces the tissue to stretch out.
You end up with a stabbing, sharp pain under the bottom of your heel. Your arch may ache as well. Typically the discomfort is worse in the morning or after you’ve been sitting for an extended period of time. As you walk around the plantar fascia loosens with use throughout the day, and the pain usually improves somewhat. Spending too much time standing or walking, however, will make the heel more uncomfortable. This is an overuse injury, so the discomfort typically worsens and becomes chronic the longer it goes untreated.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis? What Are My Risks?
Excessive strain or pressure, overuse, and faulty biomechanics are the main sources of this problem. The constant hard pounding when you walk or run can take a real toll on your feet, particularly if they aren’t conditioned or appropriately supported with your footwear. Preexisting arch issues like flat feet or high arches make your feet less efficient for absorbing pressure, which can contribute to heel pain as well.
Other factors may increase your risk for the problem. Obesity and age both stress your lower limbs. Certain activities strain the heels or involve lots of hard impacts. Jobs that require you to stand or walk constantly exhaust your foot structures. Even outside forces like badly-fitted, worn out, or unsupported footwear can strain your feet and increase your risk for painful heels.
Eliminating the Heel Pain
Fortunately plantar fasciitis can be treated conservatively. The Martin Foot and Ankle team will carefully examine your feet to diagnose your condition. We may need to use multiple tests and even diagnostic images to rule out other possible issues in your heels. Once we have confirmed the cause of your discomfort and the contributing factors, we can begin treating the problem.
The most important factor will be resting the foot and decreasing the pressure on your heel. This may mean taking a break from hard impact activities and changing your shoes so they are more supportive. Custom orthotics can help correct biomechanical issues and add extra support or padding. Ice your heels periodically to help decrease inflammation and swelling. Physical therapy exercises and stretches may relieve some of the tension and discomfort. Sometimes night splints help loosen the tightened plantar fascia as well. We may recommend anti-inflammatory medications for stubborn pain. Occasionally direct injections may help. In rare cases, surgery to release the tightened tissue may be needed.
Plantar fasciitis is an unfortunately common problem, but it doesn’t have to control your activities or your daily life. The sooner you take care of the condition, the easier it is to manage. Don’t wait so long to address your heel pain that you require invasive treatment options like surgery to feel better. Contact Martin Foot and Ankle in Hanover, York, Lititz and Lancaster, PA, for an appointment to take care of the problem. Just call (717) 757-3537 or use the website to reach us.