The condition plantar fasciitis is a common cause of pain at the bottom of the heel due to the band of tissue becoming irritated or inflamed. The feet are made up of bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, tendons, and muscles. The plantar fascia ligament is located directly below the skin at the bottom of the foot and supports the arch. The ligament helps connect the heel to the front of the foot, aiding in movements such as walking. It is estimated that around two million patients a year receive treatment for plantar fasciitis.
What are the causes and symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
One of the most common orthopedic issues, plantar fasciitis often occurs due to wear and tear. Pressure on the feet can cause damage or injury to the plantar fascia ligament. Acting as a shock absorber during walking movements, studies believe the condition may also develop due to degeneration. This condition can cause a sharp pain when walking and the pain often decreases with movement. Risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis can include obesity, wearing shoes with inadequate support, having high arches or flat feet, repetitive activities such as running, increased activity levels, and having tight calf muscles. Heel spurs can also be present in patients that experience plantar fasciitis, but they are unrelated to the cause of the condition. Having a tight Achilles tendon may also result in pain in the plantar fascia ligament.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis can include a stabbing pain at the bottom of the foot located near the heel or mid-foot area. While it can affect both feet, it is usually only present in one foot. Patients may notice that the pain is worse in the morning, after rest, or after exercise and activities. Pain can range in severity from dull to sharp. Some patients may experience a burning or aching pain at the bottom of the foot. Those with plantar fasciitis may also have difficulty climbing stairs due to stiffness in the heel.
What is the diagnosis and treatment life for plantar fasciitis?
In order to diagnose plantar fasciitis a doctor will examine the affected foot and ask the patient about their symptoms. The doctor will check for a high arch, limited mobility, pain present when pushing on the plantar fascia, pain that improves when the toes are pointed downward, and inquire about tenderness on the bottom of the foot in front of the heel bone. A doctor may also order imaging tests such as x-rays and MRIs to help determine the cause of plantar fasciitis or rule out other conditions.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis can include resting and icing the injury. Anti-inflammatory medication and certain exercises can also be recommended. In certain cases, cortisone injections can also be administered. Supportive shoes, orthotics, and night splints may also be recommended. Physical therapy and extracorporeal shockwave therapy may also be prescribed.