Understanding and Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is a disorder that affects the underside of feet. The name is derived from the main foot area that is affected, plantar fascia. This is a tough band of tissues that run from the heel bone up to the mid-foot and toe bones. It supports the arch of the foot, and also acts as a shock-absorber. Basically, the disorder causes an inflammation of the plantar fascia.

Plantar Fasciitis can affect young as well as aged people. However, the most common group is middle-aged people. It can also occur in athletes or soldiers.

Causes

The main cause of plantar fasciitis is small, recurrent injuries to the fascia.  It can also be caused due to repeated strain on the ligament that supports the arch. This can lead to pain and swelling in the ligament. Some other causes of plantar fasciitis are:

  • Flat feet
  • Obesity
  • Feet with high arches
  • Wearing poor quality shoes
  • Stiff calf muscles, Achilles tendons
  • Prolonged walking, standing, or running mainly on hard surfaces
  • Pronation – shifting the weight on the inside edge of the foot while walking

Symptoms

Intense pain is the biggest symptom of plantar fasciitis. Patients experience pain and stiffness, particularly when they take their first steps in the morning, or when they get up after sitting for a long time period.

Generally, the stiffness and pain reduce after a few initial steps. However, they may increase as the day goes by. A clear indicator would be experiencing sudden shooting pain after standing for a long time period, or when climbing stairs. Limping due to the intense pain is also another symptom.

Diagnosis

Doctors usually diagnose plantar fasciitis by taking a detailed history of the patient and carefully examining the feet. If required, the doctor may also suggest getting an x-ray or an ultrasound scan of the fascia and heel.

Treatment

Generally, the pain of plantar fasciitis reduces quite slowly, and it may take several months for full recovery. For this reason, it is advisable to follow the treatment methods given below:

  • Resting the foot – This should be followed as strictly as possible. Avoid running, excess walking or standing, and stretching the sole of the foot. However, light walks and minimalistic exercises can be done.
  • Footwear – Avoid walking barefoot on hard or rocky surfaces. Ensure that you wear shoes that can provide enough comfort and support to the heel and arch.
  • Ice fermentation – The pain on the heel can also be reduced by applying ice to the heel for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Painkillers – Speak to the doctor, and let him prescribe medicines that can reduce the inflammation and provide temporary pain relief.
  • Steroid injections – If the pain continues, steroid injections can be administered into the heel tissue. These injections are also administered to provide temporary pain relief.
  • PRP Injections – A helpful new solution that is offered to patients nowadays is the administration of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. These help to heal the injury using cytokines and other growth factors.
  • Physiotherapy – A physiotherapist can teach patient a few stretching exercises to help reduce pain in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. The physiotherapist can also teach some exercises designed to strengthen the lower leg muscles.

It is important that all these treatments be performed under the guidance of your family doctor or orthopedician.
A proper understanding of the disorder and sound advice and treatment from the doctor can help you recover from Plantar Fasciitis.