The plantar fascia is a thick, ligamentous connective tissue that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. This strong and tight tissue helps maintain the arch of the foot. It is also one of
the major transmitters of weight across the foot as you walk or run. Thus, tremendous stress is placed on the plantar fascia, often leading to plantar fasciitis- a stabbing or burning pain in the
heel or arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. People who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are also at a higher
risk. Prolonged plantar fasciitis frequently leads to heel spurs, a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone. The heel spur itself is not thought to be the primary cause of pain, rather
inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia is the primary problem.
A variety of causes exist for plantar fasciitis. Some of the most common causes include excessive weight load on the foot due to obesity or prolonged standing, mechanical imbalances of the foot,
osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, sudden increase in body weight (e.g., pregnancy), sudden increase in walking or running, tight calf muscles is a very common cause of the disorder, wearing
shoes with poor support, including flip-flops. Another cause of pain is the shortening of the plantar fascia overnight due to the ankle bending, causing the toes to point towards the ground. The
plantar fascia stretches in the morning when you stand. The act of lengthening it causes a great deal of pain. However, this is not limited to an overnight occurrence, it can happen any time the foot
is flexed (i.e., pointed) for extended periods of time. For example, driving in the car for long periods can cause fasciitis in the right foot, which steps on the accelerator.
The condition typically starts gradually with mild pain at the heel bone often referred to as a stone bruise. You're more likely to feel it after (not during) exercise. The pain classically occurs
right after getting up in the morning and after a period of sitting. If you don't treat plantar fasciitis, it may become a chronic condition. You may not be able to keep up your level of activity,
and you may develop symptoms of foot, knee, hip and back problems because plantar fasciitis can change the way you walk.
Your doctor can usually diagnose plantar fasciitis just by talking to you and examining your feet. Rarely, tests are needed if the diagnosis is uncertain or to rule out other possible causes of heel
pain. These can include X-rays of the heel or an ultrasound scan of the fascia. An ultrasound scan usually shows thickening and swelling of the fascia in plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory and when injected directly into the heel it will work almost immediately. Bear in mind however, that the treatment does not address the root cause of the
inflammation, and needs to be repeated every few months. Also note, these injections are quite painful, and most doctors today will consider other, less invasive treatment options first. ESWT (Extra
Corporeal Shockwave Treatment). A specialist targets therapeutic shockwaves to the affected heel area. This will stimulate a healing response in the affected tissue and ligaments, resulting in
reduced inflammation and pain. This treatment and may take from 3 to 4 months to be fully effective. Extracorpreal Shock Wave Therapy is the latest technology to treat chronic plantar fasciitis. It
is a non-invasive treatment and highly recommended for people who have tried other treatment like cortisone-injections, accupuncture etc with little or no success. Electroacupuncture and standard
acupuncture are used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis and other foot problems such as neuromas and nerve impingement, numbness in the toes etc. In some cases there is nerve entrapment within the
foot combined with referred pain from other areas of the body. Some research suggests that acunpuncture can be effective in the treatment of heel pain. A trigger point is an irritable knot in the
muscle tissue. When pressed trigger points are very tender and can cause pain in that specific spot or elsewhere in the body (referred pain). The response to pushing into the knot is a muscle twitch.
The foot contains 126 muscles, tendons and ligaments, so there are plenty of 'hiding places' for trigger points. Trigger points in the calf muscles often refer pain directly to the bottom of the
foot. Trigger point therapy of the lower leg and foot can therefore be successful in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.
More invasive procedures to treat plantar fasciitis are usually sought only after other treatment has failed to produce favorable results. Corticosteroid injections deliver medicine into the injured
fascia to reduce pain. However, this treatment may weaken the plantar fascia and result in further damage. In addition, extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) is a treatment where sound waves are
sent through the damaged tissue in order to stimulate the damaged tissue and encourage healing. This method is relatively new in treating plantar fasciitis and your doctor will be able to tell you if
it is the right method for you. Lastly, surgery is the last option for those suffering from chronic or severe plantar fasciitis.
Calf stretch. Lean forward against a wall with one knee straight and the heel on the ground. Place the other leg in front, with the knee bent. To stretch the calf muscles and the heel cord, push your
hips toward the wall in a controlled fashion. Hold the position for 10 seconds and relax. Repeat this exercise 20 times for each foot. A strong pull in the calf should be felt during the stretch.
Plantar fascia stretch. This stretch is performed in the seated position. Cross your affected foot over the knee of your other leg. Grasp the toes of your painful foot and slowly pull them toward you
in a controlled fashion. If it is difficult to reach your foot, wrap a towel around your big toe to help pull your toes toward you. Place your other hand along the plantar fascia. The fascia should
feel like a tight band along the bottom of your foot when stretched. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat it 20 times for each foot. This exercise is best done in the morning before standing or