Plantar Fasciitis Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
A new day has come… You wake up feeling happy, fresh and prepared for the day. Unfortunately, as you make the first step out of your bed, your foot hurts. Your happiness is cut short.
As you continue walking around, the pain fades away. Since you can’t remember the last time you hurt your foot, you assume it’s nothing.
The next morning is here, and you undergo the same experience recurs. “This is getting strange…” You think. But you convince yourself that it will go away soon.
Gradually, the pain becomes more- unbearable. The pain becomes part of your every morning ritual. Since the “thing” goes away as you walk around, you think you’re okay, right?
You have plantar fasciitis…
This is a condition that causes injury in your foot and causes pain under your heel.
God news is that you can treat this monster and save yourself from all the pain and suffering it might bring in your life.
Note that the earlier you treat this condition, the safer you’re.
So, how do you describe this beast? What causes it? What are the surefire signs that you have it? How can you get rid of it?
After reading this post, you’ll be able to answer all the above question (and even get to know more about this foot disorder).
What Exactly is Plantar Fasciitis?
In the simplest words, Plantar Fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia, at the point where it connects with the plantar tendon (to either the base of your toes or the heel bone).
Plantar Fascia is a band of connective tissue (or ligament) that runs along the bottom of your foot and connects your heel to the base of your toes. It mainly plays the role of a shock absorber that supports your foot arch.
Overloading the tension of this tissue results in tiny tears that lead to irritations, inflammations, and pain. The pain exists in two forms- as a stabbing sensation in the heel or the foot arch, or a deep aching/throbbing. This is the origin of plantar fasciitis.
Why the pain comes up in the morning? Well, this is simply because the fascia gets contracted during the night in an attempt to heal itself. Thus, as you step out of your bed in the morning, sudden strains coupled with pain occur all over your foot.
As your foot gets warmed up and starts moving, the pain subsides.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Many things are known to set the pace for Plantar Fasciitis. In this part, we’ll discuss all the possible causes of this foot disorder:
This is the most common cause… The more time you spend on your feet, the more you’re likely to strain the ligament supporting your arch.
Repeated strains eventually subject you to swelling and pain on the plantar fascia.
Have you had recent weight gain?
And heel pain at the same time? Yes? This is not a coincidence! You’ve plantar fasciitis. The more weight you gain, the heavier you become.
The result of all this is that you’ll put more stress on your plantar fascia ligament, and thus experience pain.
Tight Achilles Tendons (Also Called the Calf Muscles)
Having tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles might be another reason to worry as they may also lead to heel pain. On the rear side of your heels, there exists the attachments of Achilles tends that runs up into the calves muscles.
In case the calves are too tight, and the Achilles tendons aren’t flexible, one thing will happen to your plantar tendon. You’ll be pulling and tightening it, weakening the fascia attachment to the bone.
When the tendon is pulled beyond a limit that fascia can’t hold, the fascia will form micro-tears and starts pulling away from the bone. The final result is inflammation of fascia.
Change in Activity
Changing your exercise routine contributes to plantar fasciitis. A change in activities e.g. a significant and sudden increase in mileage when running, walking on hard surfaces, running on different surfaces, ballet, dance aerobics, etc. puts excessive pressure on your heel resulting in a strain.
Wearing Unsuitable Shoes
Inappropriate footwear also entertains this beast. Shoes that don’t fit well are worn out are inflexible, or lack cushioning soles stress your plantar fascia faster than anything else.
Avoid wearing any unsuitable footwear if you don’t want to get the worst nightmare of your life.
Let me take you through a foot mechanics lesson…
When walking normally, your foot lands on the outer side of your feel first. Consequently, your weight passes along the inner edge of the sole and then back to the outside of your foot. This is known as normal pronation.
The flipside of normal pronation is excessive pronation, where your body weights stay on the inner edge of your sole. It’s characterized by your foot rolling inwards too much when walking and leads to the inflammations and discomfort in the plantar fascia.
Do You Suffer from Rheumatic Conditions?
As a sufferer of any rheumatic condition- ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis- you’re prone to getting irritations and inflammations anywhere a ligament attaches to a bone.
Plantar fascia, being one of the ligaments present in your body, isn’t an exception!
High Arched or Flat Feet
What’s wrong with having high arched (cavus) or flat feet? Right, you’re less likely to absorb the walking stress. The overall effect of not absorbing walking stress is that your plantar fascia tendon will suffer more strains and make you get a severe plantar fasciitis
What the hell is a heel spur? Are you wondering? Well, this is a calcium deposit that causes a bony protrusion on the underpart of your heel bone. It’s a rare condition where an extra bone forms leading to a small bony prominence.
Although a heel spur is painless, it causes heel pain.
Plantar Fasciitis affects any age. But it’s most common in folks at the middle ages- between 40 and 60 years. Plus it can attack or both feet.
It’s also good to note that younger people who spend most of the time on their feet, e.g. athletes, soldiers, etc., are at a higher risk of getting this disorder.
Other Causes of Plantar Fasciitis:
- Spending log hours on your feet
- Walking on hard surfaces e.g. concrete
- Walking barefoot for a long distance or in soft sand
- Lack of stretching which makes the fascia tighter and thus more prone to tearing
What are the Main Symptoms for Plantar Fasciitis?
If you want to know whether you’ve got this disorder in your foot, look for the following signs:
(Sometimes intermittent), this kind of pain is usually at its peak in the morning hours when you step out of your bed, at the start of a sporting activity, or after an extended period of sitting.
Those who have experienced this pain describe it as a nail being driven into their heel. Can you imagine such kind of pain? It’s equivalent to a burning sensation.
Pain may also occur in the middle part of your foot. When this happens, you’ve got foot pain- another common sign that you have plantar fasciitis. You’ll feel the pain right inside your foot arch. And similar to the heel pain, foot pain burns, stabs- it’s severe!
The pain reaches its peak when you climb a tree, after an extensive exercise, when you step out of your bed, or when you sit or stand for a prolonged period.
If you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, you’ll also experience stiffness at the bottom of your heel or foot. This comes hand in hand with the heel/foot pain, and its root is the inflammation of the thick plantar tissue running along the bottom of your foot.
Yes, tenderness at the bottom of your foot is also part of this foot disaster. The tenderness is usually felt towards the heels (though the entire sole of your foot can be affected).
- People suffering from plantar fasciitis also experiences difficulties when walking or running.
- It makes your foot feel stiff and sensitive when rising after sitting when getting out of the car, or in the morning.
- You’ll also find it difficult to walk barefoot on hard surfaces plus the bottom of your foot will feel warm, tender, and swollen.
Diagnosis of Plantar Fascia
This is probably the best advice I can give you regarding plantar fasciitis: immediately you notice any of the above signs and symptoms, Take Action!
The earlier you treat plantar fasciitis, the faster it heals. The longer you wait to treat it, the longer it takes to recover.
When you visit your medical doctor, you should expect them to conduct some physical exams on your foot to confirm that indeed you’ve got this condition. The physical exams tend to point out the following:
- Tenderness on the underside of your foot
- High arches or flat feet
- The tightness or stiffness at the bottom of your feet
- Mild foot swellings (or redness)
Besides this physical exam/test, the physician may also recommend an X-ray to help rule out other problems on your foot.
An ultrasound scan of the fascia tissue can also be conducted as it helps indicate the thickness and swelling of the tissue if you’ve got plantar fasciitis.
How On Earth do I Get rid of Plantar Fasciitis?
Some of the best treatments for plantar fasciitis that your health care provider will recommend to you are as follows:
Pain Relief Tablets
The simplest treatment for Plant fasciitis is taking pain killers which will help ease the pain. Pain relievers such as paracetamol will help you reduce the burning sensation and give you some peace of mind.
Taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medicine such as iBuprofen and Nurofen is also highly recommended. These drugs not only fight the inflammation of the fascia tissue but they also help relieve the pain.
Some plantar fasciitis patients also admit that rubbing a gel or cream containing the inflammatory medicine on their heels has helped them.
If several top treatments have been administered to your heel but the pain does not end, the doctor might give you a steroid (cortisone) shot. The injection has been known to take away the pain in most patients for several weeks since it’s composed of steroids (useful for reducing inflammatory).
Note: If the first injection turns out to be unsuccessful (not always the case), 2 or 3 more injections might be tried in a period of weeks.
Orthotics Devices (Custom-Made Shoe Inserts)
Employing different orthotic devices also play a prominent role in taming the disaster- plantar fasciitis.
Lucky for you, the market has all the different orthotic devices that you need to take your pain away and make your mornings great again. Your only task is to choose the right tool that meets your unique needs.
Some of the top orthotic I’ll advise you to start using today are:
Heel Pads and Cushions
These are usually constructed from polyvinyl chloride, leather, silicone, thermoplastics, etc. They help provide extra shock absorption in your heel area.
They provide best results when used to absorb the shock of heel strike when you’re running or walking.
Wearing night splints is a traditional method of treating plantar fasciitis. The benefits that come with deploying this device include positioning your leg in a 90 degrees dorsiflexion which helps stretch the fascia. This relieves the pain associated with the first striking step you take in the morning.
Wearing night splints also helps sustain stretching to the Achilles tendons/calf muscles which are major contributors for plantar fasciitis.
The only drawback associated with wearing a night splint is the cumbersome effect it has on some people. But bearing in mind the role it plays in relieving your pain, it’s worth it.
Having your foot in the cast for a few weeks forces you to rest your foot- helpful for relieving the pain associated with plantar fasciitis. It does this by causing some weakening in your foot, calf muscles and ankle and some loss of flexibility.
After the cast is removed, your foot requires some rehabilitation to restore your walking strength and motion range.
Other orthotics available: dynamic insoles, custom foot orthotics, heel cushions, prefabricated commercial foot orthotics, and so on.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy
In extracorporeal shock wave therapy, a machine is deployed to transmit high-energy sound waves to the painful area on your foot via your skin in an attempt to treat the condition.
This kind of treatment is quite expensive and, usually, recommend for conditions that have defied the standard treatment methods we’ve discussed above.
So, if you’ve tried all the other tradition treatments for plantar fasciitis without success, you might want to consider ESWT before heading for surgery.
Important note: the effectiveness of ESWT in the treatment of various orthopedic conditions hasn’t been fully established. A jury to determine thi is still out.
Here’s the last resort… you’ve tried all the treatments listed above. You’ve also tried ESWT. But nothing good comes out of your aching foot. If that’s you, the last thing you’d have to undergo is foot surgery.
99% of patients with plantar fasciitis are treated successfully with any of the above treatments work, making foot surgery rare option.
If your pain has not been eased after around 12 months, your doctor will resolve to operate your foot. This involves separating the fascia from where it’s connected to the bone (plantar fascia release). It may also require removal of heel spur- if you have one.
Surgery is not always successful. It leads to complications e.g. infections, persistent pain, and damage to the small nerves in your heel. This causes tingling and numbness. Plantar fascia release results in flat feet.
Are There Any Remedies Available for This Disorder?
Yes, there are! And that means that there are some things you can do on your own to deal with plantar fasciitis.
So, if the doctor is out of reach, conduct any of the following TEN home remedies for plantar fasciitis…
1. Rest your foot- you should do as much as possible. Keep off from running, excess walking, and unnecessary for your sole. However, gentle walking and exercises recommended for plantar fascist will be okay.
2. Switch to suitable footwear- as we did discuss earlier, one of the leading causes of this foot injury is wearing unsuitable shoes. But this can be avoided by wearing better shoes- shoes with good arch support, cushioned heels, fits your foot well, etc.
A laced sports shoe will do better than an open sandal.
Avoid wearing worn out or old footwear that might not offer your heels the right cushion.
3. Avoid walking barefoot on hard surfaces and for long distances- when you do so, your plantar fascia will be forced to absorb more strain. The same case happens if you wear unsuitable shoes described above.
4. You can also ice the affected foot with the help of ice cups or any other frozen, round object such as water bottle. Icing your foot immediately after running have been proved to work miracles. Repeat this practice several times a day for the best results.
5. Make a habit of stretching your calf muscles around three times every day. And ensure that each second consists of 3×30 second holds- first with your knee straight, then when it’s bent.
6. Have you tried rolling out your fascia using a golf ball? If not, you need to try this right away and experience the calming effect it gives your aching foot. But be careful not to apply too much force on the injured area.
7. Shoe inserts such as SuperFeet Green or Powerstep, when incorporated in your running or everyday shoes, works wonders. These are part of the orthotic devices and are readily available over the counter.
8. If waking up in the morning is a nightmare for you, consider stretching your plantar fascia right before you take your first step in the morning. Also, you can repeat this several times in a day. Ensure that each session has 10×10 second holds.
9. A low-dye taping also goes a long way in protecting your arch as you walk around or carry on with your exercises.
10. A foot massage is another natural way of treating plantar fascia. It can be done manually or with the help of electric massager, and helps release the tension in your plantar fascia.
Can You Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?
There are several measures you can take to avoid plantar fasciitis from catching up with you. These rules apply to those who have had this problem before and those who’ve never experienced it.
These actions are:
- Regularly change the training shoes you use for walking or running.
- Always wear shoes that offer your heels better cushion and have an excellent arch support
- Keep your weight in check; say no to overweight
- Stretch your plantar fascia as well as Achilles tendon on a regular basis, especially before an exercise
- Don’t exercise on hard surfaces, more so, on barefoot
Plantar Fasciitis explained by a Podiatrist:
Bringing it All Together
Plantar fasciitis starts as a simple inflammation of the plantar fascia on your foot. If not treated in its early stages, it spreads along the bottom of your foot causing you severe pain. This pain is in the form of a burning sensation, a stabbing. It will limit you from running or engaging in any other sporting activity.
Luckily, there’s a broad range of treatments available to treat this condition and restore your foot back to normal. There are cheap, natural remedies as well that can help you treat the condition.
Keeping your calf muscles, Achilles tendons and ankles flexible helps prevent this condition from recurring in your life. Other helpful measures include wearing suitable shoes, keeping your weight in check, avoiding exercising on hard surfaces, etc.
- Heel and Foot Pain (Plantar fasciitis): http://patient.info/health/heel-and-foot-pain-plantar-fasciitis
- Save Yourself From Plantar Fasciitis: https://www.painscience.com/tutorials/plantar-fasciitis.php
- Understanding Plantar Fasciitis- the Basics: http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/understanding-plantar-fasciitis-basics
- Plantar Fasciitis: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007021.htm