The heel is a padded cushion of fatty tissue around the heel bone that serves to protect the structures of the foot, including the calcaneus, muscles and ligaments. Heel pain is a very common foot complaint, and one of the most common sources of heel pain is Plantar Fasciitis. The Walking Clinic Podiatrists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating this common condition. Let’s take a look at what Plantar Fasciitis is, as well as the causes, symptoms and possible treatments.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a condition of pain and tissue damage at the attachment of the plantar fascia to the underside of the calcaneus (heel bone). The plantar fascia is a piece of strong and thick tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes and creating the foot’s arch. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, either through overstretching, overuse or a medical condition.
Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis:
Plantar fasciitis sometimes seems to appear for no apparent reason. However, plantar fasciitis is caused by one of two methods – either traction or compression injuries.
Traction Plantar Fasciitis – where your plantar fascia is repeatedly overstretched. The most common reason for the overstretching is an elongated arch due to either poor foot biomechanics or weakness of your foot arch muscles.
Compression Plantar Fasciitis – stemming from a trauma to the plantar fascia, such as stepping on a sharp object that bruises your plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis is most often associated with impact and running sports, especially those that involve toe running rather than heel running styles. It is also commonly diagnosed in individuals with flat feet or weak foot arch control muscles. Other causes and risk factors include:
- Playing sports that put stress on the heel bone, like running, dance and aerobics
- Spending a lot of time on your feet
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes or shoes with poor arch support or stiff soles
- Injury to the heel, such as stress fractures
- Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa – bursae are small sacs that contain fluid to lubricate moving parts, such as joints and muscles)
- Neuroma (nerve enlargement)
- Certain disorders, including diabetes and arthritis
- Being overweight
Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain under the heel, which can be dull or sharp, often like a knife sticking into your foot. The sole of the foot may ache or burn, and your heel may be slightly swollen.
You may experience:
- Sharp pain in the inside part of the bottom of the heel
- Heel pain that tends to be worse with the first few steps after awakening, when climbing stairs or when standing on tiptoe
- Heel pain after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position
- Heel pain after, but not usually during, exercise
- Mild swelling in the heel
The pain is often worse in the morning, as you take your first steps, after prolonged standing or sitting or after intense activity.
A podiatrist can assist with plantar fasciitis and other foot and lower limb problems. Initial treatment includes gentle stretching of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, taping, arch support and heel lifts. For most people, the condition improves within a year. Care should be taken to wear supportive and stable shoes.
Treatments that may help control symptoms include:
- Night splints – a splint fitted to the calf and foot while sleeping. This holds the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon in a lengthened position overnight.
- Orthotics – off-the-shelf or custom-fitted arch supports will help distribute pressure to the feet more evenly, and to stimulate the small foot muscles.
- Stretching – exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and to strengthen lower leg muscles will stabilise the ankle and heel.
- For the most severe and persistent cases, medication, injection and surgery may be needed in conjunction with the above treatment methods.
For more specific advice about Plantar Fasciitis or general heel pain, Canberra locals should contact the experienced podiatrists at The Walking Clinic. Proud to be recognised as one of the best podiatrists in Canberra, The Walking Clinic strives to provide the best possible podiatric care for every patient that walks through the doors. Call us today to book an appointment.