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Plantar Fasciitis – say what?

When we hear the term ‘Plantar Fasciitis’ the question that comes to our mind is: what is this and what does it mean to me?

First off, let’s look at what the plantar fascia is and what its role in the body is.

The plantar fascia is the flat band of tissue (ligament) that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock absorber in your foot.  Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. Then your heel or the bottom of your foot hurts when you stand or walk.  This can lead to pain and swelling.

This is more likely to happen if:

  • Your feet roll inward too much when you walk.
  • You have high arches or flat feet.
  • You walk, stand, or run for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
  • You are overweight.
  • You wear shoes that don't fit well or are worn out.
  • You have tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles.

What are the symptoms that we should look out for?

Most people with plantar fasciitis have pain when they take their first steps after they get out of bed or sit for a long time. You may have less stiffness and pain after you take a few steps. But your foot may hurt more as the day goes on. It may hurt the most when you climb stairs or after you stand for a long time.

How common is it?

Plantar fasciitis is common. Around 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis at some time in their lives. It is most common in people between the ages of 40 to 60 years. However, it can occur at any age. It is twice as common in women as it is in men. It is also common in athletes.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor can usually diagnose plantar fasciitis just by talking to you and examining your feet. Rarely, however, tests may be 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.

How is it treated?  Are there different options?

  • Give your feet a rest. Try not to walk or run on hard surfaces.
  • To reduce pain and swelling, try putting ice on your heel.
  • Do toe stretches, calf stretches and towel stretches several times a day, especially when you first get up in the morning. (For towel stretches, you pull on both ends of a rolled towel that you place under the ball of your foot.)
  • Get a new pair of shoes. Pick shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole. Or try heel cups or shoe inserts (orthotics). Use them in both shoes, even if only one foot hurts

Can it be prevented?

There are certain things that you can do to try to prevent plantar fasciitis, especially if you have had it before. These include:

  • Regularly changing training shoes used for running or walking.
  • Wearing shoes with good cushioning in the heels and good arch support.
  • Losing weight if you are overweight.
  • Regularly stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, especially before exercise.
  • Avoiding exercising on hard surfaces.

What is the outlook?

Most people have completely recovered from an episode of plantar fasciitis within a year. However, some of the treatments described above may help to speed up your recovery.

Resources:

  1. Clinical Massage Therapy.  Understanding, Assessing and Treating over 70 conditions.  Fiona Rattray and Linda Ludwig
  2. https://patient.info/health/heel-and-foot-pain-plantar-fasciitis
  3. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/plantar-fasciitis-topic-overview#1

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