What Is Heel Discomfort

Plantar Fascia

Overview

Plantar fasciitis is a common painful disorder affecting the heel and underside of the foot. It is a disorder of the insertion site of plantar fascia on the bone and is characterized by scarring, inflammation, or structural breakdown of the foot’s plantar fascia. It is often caused by overuse injury of the plantar fascia, increases in exercise, weight or age. Although plantar fasciitis was originally thought to be an inflammatory process, newer studies have demonstrated structural changes more consistent with a degenerative process. As a result of this new observation, many in the academic community have stated the condition should be renamed plantar fasciosis.




Causes

Plantar fasciitis is the most common injury of the plantar fascia and is the most common cause of heel pain. Approximately 10% of people have plantar fasciitis at some point during their lifetime. It is commonly associated with long periods of standing and is much more prevalent in individuals with excessive inward rolling of the foot, which is seen with flat feet. Among non-athletic populations, plantar fasciitis is associated with obesity and lack of physical exercise.




Symptoms

Pain is the main symptom. This can be anywhere on the underside of your heel. However, commonly, one spot is found as the main source of pain. This is often about 4 cm forward from your heel, and may be tender to touch. The pain is often worst when you take your first steps on getting up in the morning, or after long periods of rest where no weight is placed on your foot. Gentle exercise may ease things a little as the day goes by, but a long walk or being on your feet for a long time often makes the pain worse. Resting your foot usually eases the pain. Sudden stretching of the sole of your foot may make the pain worse, for example, walking up stairs or on tiptoes. You may limp because of pain. Some people have plantar fasciitis in both feet at the same time.




Diagnosis

If you see a doctor for heel pain, he or she will first ask questions about where you feel the pain. If plantar fasciitis is suspected, the doctor will ask about what activities you've been doing that might be putting you at risk. The doctor will also examine your foot by pressing on it or asking you to flex it to see if that makes the pain worse. If something else might be causing the pain, like a heel spur or a bone fracture, the doctor may order an X-ray to take a look at the bones of your feet. In rare cases, if heel pain doesn't respond to regular treatments, the doctor also might order an MRI scan of your foot. The good news about plantar fasciitis is that it usually goes away after a few months if you do a few simple things like stretching exercises and cutting back on activities that might have caused the problem. Taking over-the-counter medicines can help with pain. It's rare that people need surgery for plantar fasciitis. Doctors only do surgery as a last resort if nothing else eases the pain.




Non Surgical Treatment

Treatments you can do at home include rest. Try to avoid activities that put stress on your feet. This can be hard, especially if your job involves being on your feet for hours at a time, but giving your feet as much rest as possible is the first step in reducing the pain of plantar fasciitis. Use ice or a cold compress to reduce pain and inflammation. Do this three or four times a day for about 20 minutes at a time until the pain goes away. Take anti-inflammatory medications. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation in the affected area. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication called a corticosteroid to help treat severe pain. Exercise your feet and calves. When the pain is gone, do calf and foot stretches and leg exercises to make your legs as strong and flexible as possible. This can help you avoid getting plantar fasciitis again. Ask your coach, athletic trainer, or a physical therapist to show you some leg exercises. Rolling a tennis ball under your foot can massage the area and help the injury heal. Talk to your doctor about shoe inserts or night splints. Shoe inserts can give your feet added support to aid in the healing process. Night splints keep your calf muscles gently flexed, helping to keep your plantar fascia from tightening up overnight. Have a trainer or sports injury professional show you how to tape your foot. A proper taping job allows your plantar fascia to get more rest. You should tape your foot each time you exercise until the pain is completely gone. For people who get repeated sports injuries, it can help to see a sports medicine specialist. These experts are trained in evaluating things like an athlete's running style, jumping stance, or other key moves. They can teach you how to make the most of your body's strengths and compensate for any weaknesses. Once you're healed, look for the silver lining in your bench time. You may find that what you learn from having an injury leads you to play a better game than ever before.

Painful Heel




Surgical Treatment

When more conservative methods have failed to reduce plantar fasciitis pain, your doctor may suggest extracorporeal shock wave therapy, which is used to treat chronic plantar fasciitis. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy uses sound waves to stimulate healing, but may cause bruises, numbness, tingling, swelling, and pain. When all else fails, surgery may be recommended to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. Few people need surgery to treat the condition.

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