What Is Plantar Fasciitis? Diagnosis, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
The Plantar Fascia which is a fibrous tissue along the bottom of your foot connects your heel to your toes. Think of the Plantar Fascia as the shock absorber of a car that supports the weight and pressure of that car; so also, the Plantar Fascia is the shock absorber of the leg. It supports the human body and absorbs pressure.
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain and one of the most common causes of plantar heel pain. It is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports your arch. It can happen in both your feet side-to-side but is more common in the right foot. Although it is very common among athletes (runners) and footballers, about 2 million patients get treatment for Plantar Fasciitis yearly; making it the most common cause of heel pain.
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Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Although there is a discernible cause in some patients; nevertheless, too much stretching and pressure tears, damages, or inflames the plantar fascia. However, here are some general causes of Plantar Fasciitis
- If you are overweight or obese, there is a high probability of having a damaged plantar fascia. This is because your weight will increase the pressure on the ligaments of your plantar fascia, especially if you gain weight suddenly.
- If you have an active job that requires you to be on your feet for long periods, such as factory workers or restaurant servers. Also, if you are a runner that runs for long distances or you run often; you are more likely to have damages in your ligaments.
- If there is a problem with the structure of your foot, there is a high probability of having plantar fasciitis. Structural problems like having flat feet, tight Achilles tendons or high arch increases the pain also.
- If you exercise without starting with stretching of the calves, you will probably cause damage to your plantar fascia.
- If you exercise or work on a hard surface, you will increase your chance of having damages and pains in your plantar fascia.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis patients often report sharp stabbing pains and dull pain as the symptoms that come with it; but generally, the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis include:
- A swollen heel.
- Continues pain that lasts over months.
- Worse pain when you stand in the morning.
- A sharp pain immediately you stand after you sit over a long time
- Frustrating pains that won’t happen during exercise, but after exercise.
- Pains near the heel or the bottom of the heel.
- Increased pain on the foot arch.
- Lastly, the most common symptom to patients is the tight Achilles tendon. Achilles tendon is that muscle that joins your heel to your calf.
Basic Principles of Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
To a Plantar Fasciitis patient, it is important to note that this inflammation does not kill; neither does it warrant the amputation of the leg. Also, this inflammation did not start one day, but rather over time. Therefore, treatment will not cure the inflammation at once; instead, it will decrease the inflammation and help avoid relapse, and everything will be back to normal with time.
Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis
Having heel pain when you take your first few steps of the day is the first diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis. Medically, physical examination and medical history examination methods are employed to diagnose Plantar Fasciitis in patients.
A podiatrist who is a specialist with problems that affect the lower legs or the feet will perform a physical examination on the Plantar Fasciitis patient. After cross-checking your medical history, the podiatrist will massage and apply pressure that could cause pains in the leg. Usually, Plantar Fasciitis will have to be tender on the sole and the inside arch of the heel. If this pressure causes pains, then the problem is likely to be Plantar Fasciitis.
To further confirm the diagnosis and rule out the possibility of other associated heel problems like tumors and fractures; the podiatrist will request an X-ray test or ultrasound imaging. This final examination will confirm the diagnosis and suggest what advice to tell the patient.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
Here are some treatments methods of Plantar Fasciitis
Some drugs like pain relievers such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil, and many more) can help reduce the inflammation caused by Plantar Fasciitis; thus, eliminating the pains in the long run.
Therapies for Plantar Fasciitis include
- Orthotics: This is when the podiatrist, caregiver, or doctor recommends a custom-fitted arch that supports the leg and distributes the pressure on the Fascia evenly.
- Night Splints: This is when the therapist, podiatrist, caregiver, or doctor recommends you wear a splint overnight when you sleep to help stretch the calf and the arch.
- Physical Therapy: This is when a series of exercises are done to stretch the Achilles tendon and the Fascia to strengthen the muscle in the lower leg. Applying athletic taping is also a recommended exercise.
Surgical and other procedures
If for one reason or the other the two mentioned treatments did not work after several months of dedicated and conservative application; then, your doctor might recommend
- Surgery: Only a few people get to use this method because it is the only option left when other treatments failed and the pain is severe. It is done through a small incision or as an open procedure.
- Injections: Steroid medication can be injected into the tender area of the Fascia to provide temporary relief. Also, multiple injections should not be encouraged, so as not to cause a rupture in the Plantar Fascia by weakening it.
- Ultrasonic Tissue Repair: This is the use of ultrasound images to direct a needle-like probe into the unhealthy Fascia tissue. The tip of the probe vibrates to break the tissues; then the damaged tissues are taken out.
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy: This is used when severe Plantar Fasciitis is not responding to treatments. With this method, sound waves are guided to the pain area to facilitate healing.
Popular Methods of Treating Plantar Fasciitis
The majority of the people with Plantar Fasciitis recover after several months with dedicated, consecutive, and conservative treatment like stretching, putting ice on the painful area, and resting.
Medications for Plantar Fasciitis
Pain reliever drugs are the best for Plantar Fasciitis. Drugs to use for Plantar Fasciitis include Acetaminophen, Advil, Motrin, Proprinal, Addaprin, Ibuprofen, Genpril, Midol IB, Motrin IB, IBU-200, A-G Profen, Nuprin, Actiprofen, and Advil Liqui-Gels.
Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis
To prevent having Plantar Fasciitis, try these preventive methods:
- Before exercise, do a warm-up. The warm-up should include you doing calf stretches
- Maintain a healthy weight to avoid excess load on your heel
- Wear a fit shoe or shoes that cushion your heel and provide support for your arch
- If you are a runner, change your running shoes regularly.
In case you have pains in your heel, visit your doctor. It might be Plantar Fasciitis, Fracture, or Tumour. Let your doctor confirm the proper diagnosis so that the next steps will be recommended. If you don’t want to experience this pain, educate yourself and prevent it; and if you are feeling this pain, you know what to do already.