What is the Plantar Fascia Tissue?
The plantar fascia is a strong band of fibrous connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. It inserts at the heel bone and stretches up along the sole of the foot to connect with the base of the toes.
The plantar fascia supports the arch and provides shock absorption in the foot. It also performs a vital role in the biomechanics of walking, running, and jumping.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
When the plantar fascia gets overly stressed or stretched, micro-tears can occur and cause pain and inflammation in the heel. This is known as plantar fasciitis. The pain is usually felt towards the bottom of the heel and can increase gradually or be sudden and stabbing. Pain from plantar fasciitis may be most severe when you wake up and take your first steps in the morning or after other long periods of rest. The pain may subside after the plantar fascia warms up but will come back eventually or even worsen.
In some cases, plantar fasciitis can lead to the development of heel spurs, which are calcium deposits that build up on the heel bone in response to repeated stress and inflammation of the heel bone.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a variety of factors such as:
- Wearing improper footwear
- Having an abnormal shape or structure of the foot
- Playing sports with repetitive movements
- Standing at work all day
- Being obese
- Abruptly increasing the level and intensity of workouts
- Having certain medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
Diagnosing and Treating Plantar Fasciitis
A podiatrist can diagnose plantar fasciitis with a physical examination and imaging tests such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or an MRI. Treatment will depend on how far along the condition has developed and how severe the pain and inflammation is.
Typical treatments for plantar fasciitis may include:
- Resting and icing the plantar fascia
- Modifying activities
- Using custom orthotics
- Wearing night splints to keep the tissue stretched
- Doing specific stretches or physical therapy
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Taping the foot to reduce stress and hold the plantar fascia in place
- Using steroid injections to reduce inflammation
In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to release tension in the plantar fascia and relieve swelling.
If you are experiencing pain and inflammation in your heel, see a podiatrist as soon as possible. If you are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, your podiatrist will discuss your treatment options and, together, you can come up with an effective plan that works for you.