What is Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)?
Regardless of lifestyle, it is not uncommon today for an individual to develop a repetitive stress injury in various parts of the body.
These can be induced by recreational physical activities such as sports or caused by work-related conditions where a similar action is performed repeatedly, resulting in the overuse of a particular part of the body.
Plantar Fasciitis is a common painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia of the foot. The plantar fascia is a broad, thick band of tissue that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot, which helps to support the arches of our feet.
Signs and Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:
- Pain in the underside of the heel
- Pain is usually worse in the morning when getting out of bed or when standing up after prolonged sitting
- Pain when pressing around the heel
- Swelling may be present
Plantar fasciitis refers to the initial inflammation of the plantar fascia which comes about as a secondary reaction to microdamage that occurs to the tissue. When this is left untreated and lasts beyond 6-8 weeks, it becomes a chronic or long-term condition known as plantar fasciopathy.
At this point, the traditional treatments meant to address the initial inflammatory stages such as anti-inflammatory drugs have minimal effect, and symptoms will return unless different treatment techniques are applied as the microdamage is still present.
Many patients develop plantar fasciopathy because
- they do not know they have developed the condition,
- fail to address plantar fasciitis in time,
- or attempt to treat it with other methods that failed before seeing a podiatrist
Untreated plantar fasciopathy is likely to cause structural degeneration to the plantar fascia. This requires a specific and focused approach to repair the damage. If the damage is left untreated, the plantar fascia continues to degenerate and can ultimately rupture, which may then only be addressed through surgical intervention.
The earlier plantar fasciopathy is diagnosed, the more options are available for treatment. Prevention is the key to successful treatment.
Some of the factors that lead to a greater chance of developing plantar fasciitis are:
The most basic remedy that you can try at home is the R.I.C.E treatment. Rest the injury by cutting back on daily activities. Ice the injury using an ice pack for 15 minutes several times a day. Ice calms down the damaged tissue and slows down blood flow to an injury, reducing swelling, inflammation and controlling the pain. Compression can be performed using an elastic wrap or bandage. Lastly, Elevate the affected limb to reduce the swelling. If you continue to experience pain, you should consult a healthcare professional such as a podiatrist.
Our podiatrists are able to offer treatments such as extracorporeal shockwave therapy, pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, phonophoresis, arch taping, physical exercises or custom orthotics. By combining these treatment modalities, the podiatrist is able to address your individual condition and treat your pain while providing a long-term solution to the underlying cause of your condition.
One common treatment for plantar fasciitis is the injection of steroids into the affected area. This helps to reduce inflammation, thereby reducing the pain. Although effective at reducing the pain, there are some side-effects, such as causing a rupture in the plantar fascia, and a failure to address the underlying causes of the initial injury.1 Over time, the analgesic effects of the injection will wear off and pain will return. Moreover, as the underlying conditions have not been addressed, the damage to the underlying structures of your lower limbs will continue to worsen, resulting in the need for more complex and painful treatment in the future.
In the most severe cases, surgery by an orthopaedic surgeon may be considered. In addition to the usual general risks of surgery, this particular surgery may also affect the long-term strength and function of the foot arch.