The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes, as well as providing support to the arch of the foot. If the ligament becomes strained or damaged, it can become inflamed – a condition that is known as plantar fasciitis.
While plantar fasciitis is not particularly well-known, it is rather common, affecting up to one in ten people at some point during their lives.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis primarily causes pain; this is often described as a sharp or “stabbing” pain that occurs at the bottom of the foot, close to the heel. The pain is usually most noticeable early in the morning, often resolving after taking a few steps – though in some instances it may linger throughout the day.
The pain can also be felt after a long period of sitting; for example, after sitting at a desk to work for several hours.
Usually, exercising can make the pain less noticeable, though it may return when returning to rest.
What are the causes of plantar fasciitis?
The cause of plantar fasciitis is straining or damaging of the plantar fascia ligament, but this can happen for a number of reasons – and almost anyone can develop the condition at some point in their life.
However, there are some groups who are more liable to develop plantar fasciitis. People who spend a lot of time on their feet tend, for example, to demonstrate higher incidences of the condition. It is also thought that exercise habits can also play a role; people that partake in activities that place a lot of strain on the heel, such as dancing or running on hard surfaces, often see higher rates of plantar fasciitis.
The anatomy of the foot may also contribute to the likelihood of developing the condition, and it particularly affects those with high foot arches or flat feet.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Every individual’s experience of plantar fasciitis is unique and, as a result, there is no single go-to treatment that is suitable for everyone.
Most often, people with plantar fasciitis are encouraged to use ice to help relieve pain and to make lifestyle changes – such as switching to low-impact exercise activities, such as swimming – to help ease the symptoms. Pain medications can also be used if a flare is particularly persistent, and toe and calf stretches can also be beneficial. A change of shoes is also usually recommended, as is using special insoles that are designed to provide more support to the foot.
In instances when the condition becomes chronic, then other treatment options may be considered; people may try shockwave therapy, which has been shown to be effective or look to undergo plantar fascia release surgery.
If you believe that you may be experiencing plantar fasciitis, raise the issue with your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Plantar fasciitis can be very painful, but with the right treatment, the persistent heel pain the condition causes can become a thing of the past.