Plantar Fasciitis is a very common cause of pain in the foot, from the heel to the ball of the foot. The pain is the result of a thick band of fascia tissue that runs from the toes to the heel. This plantar fascia is a long thin ligament that you can feel directly below the skin. The condition of plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of that tissue. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, approximately 2 million people will be treated for the condition every year. (1)
The plantar fascia experiences a lot of wear and tear in the body because it is a shock absorber and supports the arch of the foot. When there is undue pressure on the arch of the foot or pressure on the foot it can damage those ligaments. Increased pressure can be caused by tight calf muscles, tight Achilles tendon or tight plantar fascia. Individuals who are obese or overweight will also cause an increased amount of pressure to the plantar fascia.
Other causes of the inflammation of the tendon can also include a drastic or sudden increase in activities, such as runners milage or time on the basketball court or soccer field. Overuse, overpronation without correction or old shoes that don’t offer enough support can also increase the amount of pressure on the tissue and increase the risk of inflammation.
The most common complaints of pain are those that are on the bottom of the foot near the heel but if you suffer from plantar fasciitis you may also feel stabbing pain in the arch of the foot. Most often you experience pain when you first get up in the morning or after a long time of sitting and resting. This pain is caused from the tendon shortening while resting and then stretching when you begin walking.
Sometimes plantar fasciitis is a self-limiting condition, especially if the extra stressors are removed from the situation. But, if they don’t resolve then other treatments must be instituted. Your doctor may recommend rest, strengthening, stretching, night splints, arch supports, change of shoes, anti-inflammatory medications, injections, physical therapy, extracorporeal shockwave therapy or surgery. These recommendations will depend upon the stresses that caused the inflammation in the first place.
After 12 months of aggressive therapy your physician may consider a surgical option, including gastrocnemius recession in which the calf muscle is surgically lengthened or a fascia release, during which the ligament is partially cut to release the tension.
Nonsurgical treatment will almost always improve the pain, but treatment can last several months. You can prevent this type of injury by staying flexible and not increasing your athletic activity quickly or drastically.
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(1) American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs
American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Societ: Plantar Fasciitis
Sports Injury Clinic: Plantar Fasciitis
SportsMedicine: Plantar Fasciitis
Runners World: Plantar Fasciitis
HealthLine: Plantar Fasciitis
PubMed: Plantar Fasciitis
American Family Physician: Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
MayoClinic: Plantar Fasciitis