Diseases & Conditions

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar FasciitisCausesDiagnosisMedicationsRisk FactorsSymptomsTherapies

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fascia is the flat band of ligament or tissue that connects the heel of the foot to the toes. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in the foot. However, if and when the tension on this bowstring becomes too great it can create small tears in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, and lead to plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is typically caused if:

  • Excessive inward pronation of the feet, i.e. when you walk, your feet bend inwards
  • You stand, walk or run for prolonged stretches of time
  • You have excess body weight
  • Your shoes don’t fit well
  • Your shoes are too worn out
  • You Achilles heel or calf muscles are too tight

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis

To provide a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, your doctor is likely to check each of your foot thoroughly and scrutinize you as you walk and stand. He or she is likely to ask you about past pain or previous injuries. Your doctor is likely to check on your symptoms like the time of the day you experience the most pain or activities that are most painful. He or she will also ask you about your occupation as well as the type and level of physical activity that you undergo on a regular basis. Finally, you may be asked to take an X-ray or MRI of your foot to confirm the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis and eliminate other causes like stress fracture.

Medication for Plantar Fasciitis

Medication that is typically used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis includes:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen (Aleve): These are used to reduce pain and inflammation and not to resolve the underlying cause of the problem.
  • Corticosteroids: This type of medication may be delivered through a process called iontophoresis or by using an injection. Surgical and Other Procedures for Plantar Fasciitis

Although very rare, the most extreme forms of treatment for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave therapy
  • Surgery

Risk Factors of Plantar Fasciitis

Some of the factors that are likely to increase the risk of your developing plantar fasciitis are as follows:

  • Age: Plantar fasciitis is common amongst middle aged people.
  • Sex: Plantar fasciitis is more common amongst women than men.
  • Certain types of exercise: Exercises that strain the heel and adjacent tissues like long distance running, ballet dancing, aerobics, etc, can lead to Plantar fasciitis.
  • Faulty foot mechanics: Having an abnormal pattern of walking, being flat footed or having a high arch can cause strain on the plantar fascia leading to plantar fasciitis.
  • Obesity: excess weight can strain the plantar fascia leading to plantar fasciitis.
  • Certain types of occupation: Occupations that require long hours of standing like teachers, soldiers, waitresses, assembly line workers, etc. can lead to strain on plantar fascia causing plantar fasciitis.
  • Improper shoes: Shoes that are loose, too thin soled, or do not provide proper arch support can strain the plantar fascia. Also, if you wear high heels a lot, your calf muscles and Achilles heels are likely to be taut, straining the plantar fascia. These conditions can lead to plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Some of the most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include the following:

  • For many people with plantar fasciitis, the first few steps they take on waking up in the morning or after sitting for an extended time are the most painful.
  • The pain is likely to recede after the first few steps.
  • However, the pain comes back and gets worse as the day wears on.
  • The pain caused by plantar fasciitis is likely to the most severe when you are standing up or climbing steps.
  • There is a sharp pain in the heel of your foot.
  • Plantar fasciitis typically affects one foot, but it is possible for it to occur in both feet simultaneously.
  • The severity of the pain increases gradually.

Therapies for Plantar Fasciitis

The most common therapies used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Night Splints
  • Orthotics