Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia camera.gif is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your
foot. If you strain your plantar fascia, it gets weak, swollen, and irritated (inflamed). Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk. Plantar fasciitis is common in
middle-aged people. It also occurs in younger people who are on their feet a lot, like athletes or soldiers. It can happen in one foot or both feet.
Plantar fasciitis can be confused with a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome. In tarsal tunnel syndrome, an important nerve in the foot, the tibial nerve, is trapped and pinched as it passes
through the tarsal tunnel, a condition analogous to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. This may cause symptoms similar to the pain of a plantar fasciitis. There are also other less common problems
such as nerve entrapments, stress fractures, and fat pad necrosis, all of which can cause foot pain. Finally, several rheumatologic conditions can cause heel pain. These syndromes such as Reiter's
syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis can cause heel pain similar to plantar fasciitis. If your symptoms are not typical for plantar fasciitis, or if your symptoms do not resolve with treatment, your
doctor will consider these possible diagnoses.
You'll typically first notice early plantar fasciitis pain under your heel or in your foot arch in the morning or after resting. Your heel pain will be worse with the first steps and improves with
activity as it warms up. As plantar fasciitis deteriorates, the pain will be present more often. You can determine what stage your are in using the following guidelines. No Heel Pain, Normal! Heel
pain after exercise. Heel pain before and after exercise. Heel pain before, during and after exercise. Heel pain all the time. Including at rest! This symptom progression is consistent with the four
stages of a typical overuse injury. Ultimately, further trauma and delayed healing will result in the formation of calcium (bone) within the plantar fascia. When this occurs adjacent to the heel bone
it is known as heel spurs, which have a longer rehabilitation period.
After you describe your symptoms and discuss your concerns, your doctor will examine your foot. Your doctor will look for these signs. A high arch, an area of maximum tenderness on the bottom of your
foot, just in front of your heel bone. Pain that gets worse when you flex your foot and the doctor pushes on the plantar fascia. The pain improves when you point your toes down. Limited "up" motion
of your ankle. Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in
ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not
routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Night splints usually are designed to keep a person's ankle in a neutral position overnight. Most individuals naturally sleep with the feet plantar-flexed, a position that causes the plantar fascia
to be in a foreshortened position. A night dorsiflexion splint allows passive stretching of the calf and the plantar fascia during sleep. Theoretically, it also allows any healing to take place while
the plantar fascia is in an elongated position, thus creating less tension with the first step in the morning. A night splint can be molded from plaster or fiberglass casting material or may be a
prefabricated, commercially produced plastic brace. Several studies have shown that use of night splints has resulted in improvement in approximately 80 percent of patients using night splints. Other
studies found that night splints were especially useful in individuals who had symptoms of plantar fasciitis that had been present for more than 12 months. Night splints were cited as the best
treatment by approximately one third of the patients with plantar fasciitis who tried them. Disadvantages of night splints include mild discomfort, which may interfere with the patient's or a bed
partner's ability to sleep.
Surgery may be considered in very difficult cases. Surgery is usually only advised if your pain has not eased after 12 months despite other treatments. The operation involves separating your plantar
fascia from where it connects to the bone; this is called a plantar fascia release. It may also involve removal of a spur on the calcaneum if one is present. Surgery is not always successful. It can
cause complications in some people so it should be considered as a last resort. Complications may include infection, increased pain, injury to nearby nerves, or rupture of the plantar fascia.
While it's typical to experience pain in just one foot, massage and stretch both feet. Do it first thing in the morning, and three times during the day. Achilles Tendon Stretch. Stand with your
affected foot behind your healthy one. Point the toes of the back foot toward the heel of the front foot, and lean into a wall. Bend the front knee and keep the back knee straight, heel firmly
planted on the floor. Hold for a count of 10. Plantar Fascia Stretch. Sit down, and place the affected foot across your knee. Using the hand on your affected side, pull your toes back toward your
shin until you feel a stretch in your arch. Run your thumb along your foot--you should feel tension. Hold for a count of 10.