When someone is suffering from heel pain, odds are pretty good they have plantar fasciitis. It is the most common cause of discomfort in the heel area, usually signified by a stabbing pain under your heel when rising in the morning. The source of all this trouble is a hard-working ligament that has taken too much strain.
The Plantar Takes a Pounding
The plantar fascia is a flat ligament connecting the heel bone to the toes. It supports your arch and absorbs the force of impacts upon your foot. When placed under too much tension, the ligament can overextend itself and develop small tears. Repeated stretching and tearing can cause the plantar fascia to grow weaker and become inflamed, resulting in plantar fasciitis.
Activities and situations that place greater amounts of stress on the heel can increase your risk of suffering from inflammation. Long-distance runners, dancers, and other athletes who perform on hard surfaces can be susceptible to developing the condition. Occupations that involve long periods of walking or standing on hard surfaces also possess an increased risk, especially if you are overweight. Improper foot support can also be responsible for stressing the plantar fascia. This may involve natural deformities, such as flat feet and high arches, or wearing ill-fitting footwear.
A common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain radiating from the bottom of the foot, toward the heel. This heel pain often occurs after periods of inactivity, and is usually worst when first walking around in the morning. Pain may also increase when climbing stairs or after standing for a long time. The discomfort typically decreases after some movement, but it is possible to experience more discomfort as the day progresses.
Aiding the Arches
Plantar fasciitis can often be diagnosed without the need for any tests, although an X-ray or MRI may be ordered if another injury, such as a stress fracture, is suspected. Treatment is often conservative and most people will recover in a few months.
Resting the injured ligament will greatly aid healing. Reduce the frequency of activities that stress the foot and try to avoid hard surfaces. We may also suggest ice and over-the-counter medications to help relieve pain and swelling. Certain stretches and exercises can help with symptoms as well by adding strength and stability. In some cases, an orthotic may be prescribed to more evenly distribute pressure along the foot and take excess stress off the plantar fascia.
If simpler treatments prove ineffective, additional options such as steroid injections may be recommended. Surgery is usually considered only if chronic pain persists after 6-12 months and all other methods have failed. The plantar fascia would be surgically removed from the heel bone to relieve the pain, but this also weakens the arch of the foot.
Ignoring your heel pain or changing your stride to avoid it are poor solutions that can cause even further problems down the road. Let Dr. Evan Merrill, Dr. Adam Gerber and the highly educated staff of Southern Oregon Foot and Ankle, diagnose the cause of your pain and set you on the proper path to recovery. Call us at (541) 776-3338 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.