Plantar fasciitis is caused by the inflammation and swelling of the plantar fascia of the foot, which is a ligament or a thick band of connective tissue that runs from the heel bone up to the base of the toes. The main function of the plantar fascia is to support the arch of the foot and serve as a shock absorber when pressure is applied such as when standing, walking or running. Repetitive stress and overstretching of this ligament, then, causes a strain that may eventually lead to micro ruptures of the plantar fascia that is responsible for the pain and inflammation present. Thus, it is considered to be a degenerative process brought about by the overuse of the ligament more than just an inflammatory process.
Plantar fasciitis is often seen in runners and other athletes who engage in sports that involve a lot of running. In fact, it is seen in roughly around 10% of people who run regularly and is responsible for close to 15% of foot complaints but has no gender predilection. This injury has a peak incidence between 40 to 60 years old.
Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
A person with plantar fasciitis often experiences:
- Pain and stiffness at the base of the foot near the heel upon taking his first steps in the morning
- Pain may lessen after a few steps but is usually exacerbated when climbing the stairs or when walking or standing for a prolonged period of time
Risk Factors of Plantar Fasciitis
Aside from activities that involve a lot of running, risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis are the following:
- Being overweight or obese as this can lead to more pressure being exerted on to the foot
- Shoes with poor arch support or poor cushion
- Being flat footed or having a high arch
- Running on uneven surfaces
- Having a tight Achilles tendon
- Standing, walking or running for a prolonged period of time
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis
Treatment for plantar fasciitis usually involves a conservative approach as the injury often heals in time albeit, slowly. The following may be done:
- Ice compress applied on the painful area
- Having adequate rest after a strenuous activity
- Wearing footwear with cushioned heels and adequate arch support
- Using orthotics or heel pads and arch support that can be inserted into the shoes in order to distribute the pressure on the foot more evenly
- Avoiding walking barefoot
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin to ease the pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy or occupational therapy such as massages and strengthening exercises to hasten and improve recovery
If conservative treatments fail and the injury persists for several months, the following may be recommended by your health professional:
- Corticosteroid injections such as cortisone
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy
Stretching the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon upon waking up or before an activity is the best way to prevent developing the injury as it allows the muscles to be more flexible.
Learn how to manage and prevent common problems that arise with sports and exercise by enrolling in First Aid Courses.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common sports injuries that results from the repetitive stress on the feet producing a sharp or stabbing pain, often seen in runners.