The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the underneath of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. At the heel it can also have fascial connections to the achilles
tendon. Its job is to maintain the arch of the foot, it acts as a bowstring pulled between the heel and the toes. "Itis" as a suffix indicates inflammation, but with the plantar fascia there is still
some controversy over what exactly happens to the tissue when it becomes painful.
Plantar Fasciitis often leads to heel pain, heel spurs, and/or arch pain. The excessive stretching of the plantar fascia that leads to the inflammation and discomfort can be caused by the following:
Over-pronation (flat feet) which results in the arch collapsing upon weight bearing A foot with an unusually high arch A sudden increase in physical activity Excessive weight on the foot, usually
attributed to obesity or pregnancy Improperly fitting footwear Over-pronation (flat feet) is the leading cause of plantar fasciitis. Over-pronation occurs in the walking process, when a person's arch
collapses upon weight bearing, causing the plantar fascia to be stretched away from the heel bone. With Plantar Fasciitis, the bottom of your foot usually hurts near the inside of the foot where the
heel and arch meet. The pain is often acute either first thing in the morning or after a long rest, because while resting the plantar fascia contracts back to its original shape. As the day
progresses and the plantar fascia continues to be stretched, the pain often subsides.
Plantar fasciitis and heel spur pain usually begins in the bottom of the heel, and frequently radiates into the arch. At times, however, the pain may be felt only in the arch. The pain is most
intense when first standing, after any period of rest. Most people with this problem experience their greatest pain in the morning, with the first few steps after sleeping. After several minutes of
walking, the pain usually becomes less intense and may disappear completely, only to return later with prolonged walking or standing. If a nerve is irritated due to the swollen plantar fascia, this
pain may radiate into the ankle. In the early stages of Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs, the pain will usually subside quickly with getting off of the foot and resting. As the disease progresses, it
may take longer periods of time for the pain to subside.
Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by your physiotherapist or sports doctor based on your symptoms, history and clinical examination. After confirming your plantar fasciitis they will investigate
WHY you are likely to be predisposed to plantar fasciitis and develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future bouts. X-rays may show calcification within the plantar fascia or at its
insertion into the calcaneus, which is known as a calcaneal or heel spur. Ultrasound scans and MRI are used to identify any plantar fasciitis tears, inflammation or calcification. Pathology tests
(including screening for HLA B27 antigen) may identify spondyloarthritis, which can cause symptoms similar to plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of plantar fasciitis is sometimes a drawn out and frustrating process. A program of rehabilitation should be undertaken with the help of someone qualified and knowledgeable about the
affliction. Typically, plantar fasciitis will require at least six weeks and up to six months of conservative care to be fully remedied. Should such efforts not provide relief to the athlete, more
aggressive measures including surgery may be considered. The initial goals of physical therapy should be to increase the passive flexion of the foot and improve flexibility in the foot and ankle,
eventually leading to a full return to normal function. Prolonged inactivity in vigorous sports is often the price to be paid for thorough recovery. Half measures can lead to a chronic condition, in
some cases severely limiting athletic ability. As a large amount of time is spent in bed during sleeping hours, it is important to ensure that the sheets at the foot of the bed do not constrict the
foot, leading to plantar flexion in which the foot is bent straight out with the toes pointing. This constricts and thereby shortens the gastroc complex, worsening the condition. A heating pad placed
under the muscles of the calf for a few minutes prior to rising may help loosen tension, increase circulation in the lower leg and reduce pain. Also during sleep, a night splint may be used in order
to hold the ankle joint in a neutral position. This will aid in the healing of the plantar fascia and ensure that the foot will not become flexed during the night.
Surgery is not a common treatment for this condition. Approximately 5% of people with plantar fasciitis require surgery if non-surgical methods do not help to relieve pain within a year. The surgical
procedure involves making an incision in the plantar fascia in order to decrease the tension of the ligament. Potential risks of this surgical procedure include irritation of the nerves around the
heel, continued plantar fasciitis, heel or foot pain, infection, flattening of the arch, problems relating to the anesthetic.
You can help to prevent plantar fasciitis by maintaining a healthy weight, by warming up before participating in sports and by wearing shoes that support the arch and cushion the heel. In people who
are prone to episodes of plantar fasciitis, exercises that stretch the heel cord (known as the Achilles tendon) and the plantar fascia may help to prevent plantar fasciitis from returning. Ice
massage also can be used on the bottom of the foot after stressful athletic activities. It is possible that strict control of blood sugar will prevent plantar fasciitis in people with diabetes,
although this has not been proven.