We all have our metaphorical Achilles heels, but for people suffering from plantar fasciitis, the heel itself is actually their weak spot.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, connecting your toes to your heel. If you took Latin in school, you’ll recognize the terms: plantar refers to the bottom of the foot; fascia means bandage or band; and it means inflammation. It all adds up to an unpleasant injury.

What is the best treatment for Plantar Fasciitis?

Ninety per cent of plantar fasciitis cases can be treated successfully without surgery. There are a variety of techniques that your physiotherapist and physician may recommend, and it may take some time to find the combination that helps you heal and alleviates your pain. The non-invasive possibilities include:

  • Ultrasound, soft tissue massage and/or icing. These remedies help decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Iontophoresis. Using a mild electric current to push the anti-inflammatory medication that your doctor prescribes into the painful area.
  • Exercises. Stretches designed to improve the flexibility in your calves, plantar fascia and Achilles’ tendon.
  • Orthotics. These customized arch supports help cushion your heel and support your arch.
  • Heel cup. This shoe insert adds support to a heel that has lost some of its fat pad through degeneration.
  • Night splint. A splint that you wear while you sleep that prevents your foot from moving into an improper position while you sleep and stretches your calf muscles a bit.
  • Taping. You’ll see athletes using this method to provide temporary relief to sore parts.

If your pain isn’t lessening after a few months, a professional may suggest one of these measures:

  • Injections. Injecting steroid medication into the sore area may provide temporary pain relief. However, this shouldn’t become an ongoing solution because it can weaken the fascia.
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy. Sound waves target the painful area to relieve pain. This is used largely for chronic cases and may cause side-effects, such as swelling, numbness and tingling.
  • Surgery. As a last resort, surgery can detach the fascia from the heel bone, but it does weaken the arch in the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis

What is the main cause of Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is made up of collagen fibres. When you put your foot on the ground, you are placing a great deal of force on these fibres as your foot tries to flatten. The force stretches the fibres and it can lead to tears and bleeding on the band where it attaches to the heel bone.

Plantar fasciitis affects men and women of all ages, athletic or not. Factors that influence susceptibility include:

  • The calendar. It is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
  • Change of pace. A rapid increase in the length or difficulty of activity (e.g., a new job that requires you to be on your feet much more than you were previously).
  • Foot mechanics. Flat feet, high arches or an unusual walking pattern can affect the way your weight is distributed when you’re standing.
  • Heavy hitters. Increased body weight with a body mass index greater than 30; extra pounds place additional stress on your feet.
  • On your feet. A job, hobby or sport that requires prolonged standing or other weight-bearing activity – think of teachers and factory workers, for example.
  • Tightening. A decrease in the flexibility of your calf muscles.
  • Flimsy flats. Wearing shoes with inadequate support.

Plantar Fasciitis – Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, there’s a chance you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis and it’s time for a visit to your physiotherapist:

  • Pain on the bottom of your heel or along the inside edge near the arch.
  • Heel pain that increases over a period of months.
  • Pain that returns after you spend a long period of time on your feet.
  • Pain that radiates into your arch, the side of your heel or up the back of your leg.
  • Pain that is worse when you get out of bed in the morning; the first few steps may be agonizing.
  • Your heel may feel better after you exercise, but it usually returns by the end of the day.
  • Pressing on the heel causes tenderness, while pulling your toes back toward your face can be very painful.
  • Heel pain when climbing stairs or walking barefoot.

Don’t become one of the victims of plantar fasciitis. Preventive measures include stretching before and after running or walking; maintaining a healthy body weight; and wearing shoes with good arch support. However, if you do experience heel pain, it’s important to know that relief is possible.

Is Plantar Fasciitis causing you Heel Pain?