What is Plantar Fasciitis? – Blog By Emily Shortal
This common foot condition is pronounced – “Plan-tar fash–ee-eye-tus”.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Repetitive stress to the plantar fascia can cause pain. It is a thick, fibrous ligament on the sole of the foot running from the toes to the heel bone. This ligament supports the arch of your foot and helps absorb shock when walking. The plantar fascia is not very elastic, hence when too much repetitive stress or traction is placed on it, micro-tearing can occur and result in pain and inflammation.
What is a heel spur?
A heel spur (or osteophyte) is a calcium deposit causing a bony protrusion on the bottom side of the heel bone. Heel spurs are commonly associated with plantar fasciitis.
What are the symptoms?
Heel pain is more intense with the first steps in the morning or after a period of sitting. The plantar fascia tightens and shortens during rest, but then is placed on traction and stretched once weight-bearing. This pain is usually sudden and sharp, often described as a stabbing pain. After a period of walking, the plantar fascia loosens and the pain can change to a dull ache, or disappear completely. However after walking or standing for a prolonged period the pain will return.
What are the risk factors?
The following factors increase the risk of plantar fasciitis:
- Sports: especially repetitive impact activities such as running and jumping places excess strain on the arch of the foot. Ballet, and dancers in general are also prone to plantar fasciitis for this reason.
- Foot biomechanics: particularly those who are flat footed or with a naturally high arch, whereby there is a great degree of tightness in plantar fascia. Additionally, having pronated (rolled in) feet.
- Ageing: plantar fasciitis is most common amongst the over 50’s demographic due to muscle weakness and tightness in the ligaments. Additionally over time the natural protective fat pad under the heel thins.
- Overweight: excess weight places greater tractional forces on the plantar fascia, causing more trauma overtime.
- Pregnancy: from both increased weight and ligament laxity due to pregnancy hormones
- Occupation: those who are on their feet for prolonged periods because of work, particularly if standing on hard surfaces or with unsupportive footwear.
How do I get rid of my plantar fasciitis?
No single treatment works best for every case of plantar fasciitis, as differing contributing factors must be addressed. Hence attending Physiotherapy to identify and address these factors is crucial.
Common treatment methods include:
- Anti-inflammatory techniques, ice
- Stretching and massage
- Exercises to strengthen the plantar fascia
- Shoe recommendations; good arch support is essential!
- Taping, shoe inserts or orthotics to support your plantar fascia
- Gel cups to cushion the heel bone
- Strassbourg sock/night splint to prevent tightening overnight
- Cortisone injection: a powerful anti-inflammatory, usually only recommended once less invasive treatment has been unsuccessful. Bear in mind that a cortisone injection does not address the root cause of the condition, hence your symptoms can often return if the contributing factors are not addressed are supported with other treatment methods.
Our team at Total Physiocare in Reservoir, Heidelberg, Camberwell & Footscray are ready to help rid you of heel pain once and for all!
Blog By Emily Shortal (Physiotherapist)