What is Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)?
Plantar Fasciitis is a common painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a broad, thick band of tissue that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot and helps support the arches of our feet. It is particularly susceptible to repetitive stress injuries induced by physical activities, including sports or work-related situations where a similar action is performed repeatedly, resulting in heel overuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis Include:
- Pain in the underside of the heel
- Sharp pain in the morning when getting out of bed or when standing up after a prolonged period of sitting
- Pain when applying pressure around the heel
- Presence of swelling below the heel and around the ankle.
- Chronic pain may result in burning and tingling sensations extending from the heel region
Some of the factors that lead to a greater chance of developing plantar fasciitis are:
- Being overweight or gaining a large amount of weight recently
- Having a job that requires prolonged standing
- Having a foot type that predisposes you to this condition
- Discrepancy in leg length
- Sudden increase in the level of physical activity
- Long-distance running
- Sports that incorporate much side-to-side movement such as tennis or basketball
What Happens if Plantar Fasciitis Goes Untreated?
Plantar fasciitis refers to the initial inflammation of the plantar fascia as a secondary reaction to tissue microdamage. When this is left untreated and lasts beyond 6-8 weeks, it develops into a chronic condition known as plantar fasciopathy.
At this point, treatments such as anti-inflammatory drugs meant to address the initial stages become ineffective, and symptoms will return unless different treatment techniques are applied. This requires a specific and focused approach to repair the damage because if left untreated, the plantar fascia will continue to degenerate and can ultimately rupture.
Many patients develop plantar fasciopathy because they:
- Did not know that they had plantar fasciitis
- Assumed the pain would resolve spontaneously
- Failed to address plantar fasciitis in time
- Attempted to treat it with other methods that were ineffective
At this point, depending on the age, activity levels, and goals of the patient, the condition may require stabilising devices or surgical intervention.
Home remedies such as R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment can be performed in minor cases of plantar fasciitis:
- Rest by cutting back on daily activities
- Ice the injury using an ice pack for 15 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain
- Compression can be performed using an elastic wrap or bandage
- Elevate the affected limb to reduce swelling
However, if you continue to experience pain or if it seems to be worsening, consult a healthcare professional such as a podiatrist.
Your podiatrist will be able to address and target the root cause of your pain with little to no down-time through a combination of treatment modalities.
These non-invasive treatments include:
- Extracorporeal shockwave therapy
- Super Inductive Therapy
- Arch taping
- Physical therapy
- Custom orthotics
In many cases, a common treatment for plantar fasciitis requires the injection of steroids into the affected area to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. However, since the underlying cause has not been addressed, the analgesic effects of the injection will eventually wear off and pain will return with an increased risk of further damage, and can even result in ligament rupture. This effectively allows an easily treatable condition to worsen and require more complex and painful treatments in the future.
In the most severe cases, surgery by an orthopaedic surgeon may be considered. Along with other general risks, this can also affect the long-term strength and function of the foot arch. Therefore, the earlier plantar fasciitis is diagnosed and treated with the appropriate technologies, the less complications will arise.