Plantar fascia, which is the band of tissue connecting your heel bone to your toes and supporting the arch of your foot, constricts and stretches as you flex your foot and walk. It has similar elastic qualities to a rubber band.
Plantar Fasciitis presents itself as swelling, irritation, or damage to the ligaments (soft, fibrous tissue) that run along the bottom of the foot between the heel bone and the toes.
Pain ranges from mild to severe, depending on the source of inflammation and how quickly treatment starts. Delaying treatment tends to cause more damage.
Luckily, treatment options are normally non-invasive and include over-the-counter analgesics and therapeutic exercises.Severe cases may require surgery and assisted physical therapy.
Common causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- Overexertion during physical activity
- Improper gait and unequal weight distribution
- Pregnancy hormones
- Shoes that lack proper support and cushioning
Although plantar fasciitis can affect all age groups, it is most common among men, especially professional and casual athletes, between the ages of 40 and 70. Symptoms include:
- Pain along the lower inside edge or bottom of the foot
- An aching sensation or intermittent stabbing pain in the heel
- Pain, tenderness, swelling, and redness after physical activity or prolonged periods of walking or running
- A feeling of having a marble embedded in the heel when walking or when pressure is put on the heel pad
- Increased pain and discomfort first thing in the morning and after standing or sitting for extended periods
There is no definitive test to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Doctors usually complete a physical examination of the foot to look for pain-points, sensitivity to touch, swelling, and bone structure.
A physician might order x-rays or an MRI to rule out bone spurs and avulsion fractures in the heel and ankle. In addition to examining the foot, doctors consider muscle strength and tone in the foot and calf.
The doctor evaluates gait, weight distribution, and overall balance, by observing a patient walk.
It can take as little as a few months, or up to two years to recover from plantar fasciitis, depending on the source of ligament damage, and whether surgery is required.
Orthopedists usually prescribe home treatments and less invasive therapies first, unless they find a bone spur or other significant structural problem. Home treatments include taking ibuprofen and applying ice packs to relieve swelling.
Moderate exercise and wearing shoes that fit properly will help relieve the pain in many cases. Women should wear flat or low heeled-shoes with ample support.
Other treatments include:
- Orthotic shoe inserts and orthopedic boots that keep the foot stationary while sleeping
- Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy to stimulate healing
- Physical therapy
- Cortisone injections
- Daily exercise to stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia
The first step is to commit to a plan. Use our free workout plan finder to help you find some therapeutic options for stretching and total body health.
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*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Exercise.com.