The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that runs the length of the sole of the foot. The plantar fascia helps maintain the complex arch system of the foot and plays a role in one's balance and
the various phases of gait. Injury to this tissue, called plantar fasciitis, is one of the most disabling running injuries and also one of the most difficult to resolve. Plantar fasciitis represents
the fourth most common injury to the lower limb and represents 8 -10% of all presenting injuries to sports clinics (Ambrosius 1992, Nike 1989). Rehabilitation can be a long and frustrating process.
The use of preventative exercises and early recognition of danger signals are critical in the avoidance of this injury.
There are multiple potential causes and contributing factors to plantar fasciitis heel pain. The structure of a personâs foot and the way that they walk or run usually play a significant role in
the development of plantar fasciitis. Those with an arch that is lower or higher than the average person are more likely to be afflicted. Overexertion and/or participating in activities that a person
is not accustomed to also place a person at risk. This can include a heavy workout, a job change, or even an extended shopping trip. Additionally, inappropriate shoes are also often a factor.
Exercising in shoes that are worn out or donât have enough support and/or wearing inexpensive, flimsy or flat-soled dress or casual shoes are common culprits. In warm climates, such as here in
Southern California, people who wear flip-flop sandals or even go barefoot throughout the year increase their chances of developing heel pain. Many athletes and weekend warriors develop heel or arch
pain from over-exertion during running or other sports. People who work at jobs that involve long periods of standing, such as grocery checkers, cashiers, warehouse workers, postal workers, and
teachers are more susceptible as well. Adults of all ages can develop plantar fasciitis. Heel pain in children is usually caused by a different type of condition.
Patients experience intense sharp pain with the first few steps in the morning or following long periods of having no weight on the foot. The pain can also be aggravated by prolonged standing or
sitting. The pain is usually experienced on the plantar surface of the foot at the anterior aspect of the heel where the plantar fascia ligament inserts into the calcaneus. It may radiate proximally
in severe cases. Some patients may limp or prefer to walk on their toes. Alternative causes of heel pain include fat pad atrophy, plantar warts and foreign body.
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
Cortisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory and when injected directly into the heel it will work almost immediately. Bear in mind however, that the treatment does not address the root cause of the
inflammation, and needs to be repeated every few months. Also note, these injections are quite painful, and most doctors today will consider other, less invasive treatment options first. ESWT (Extra
Corporeal Shockwave Treatment). A specialist targets therapeutic shockwaves to the affected heel area. This will stimulate a healing response in the affected tissue and ligaments, resulting in
reduced inflammation and pain. This treatment and may take from 3 to 4 months to be fully effective. Extracorpreal Shock Wave Therapy is the latest technology to treat chronic plantar fasciitis. It
is a non-invasive treatment and highly recommended for people who have tried other treatment like cortisone-injections, accupuncture etc with little or no success. Electroacupuncture and standard
acupuncture are used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis and other foot problems such as neuromas and nerve impingement, numbness in the toes etc. In some cases there is nerve entrapment within the
foot combined with referred pain from other areas of the body. Some research suggests that acunpuncture can be effective in the treatment of heel pain. A trigger point is an irritable knot in the
muscle tissue. When pressed trigger points are very tender and can cause pain in that specific spot or elsewhere in the body (referred pain). The response to pushing into the knot is a muscle twitch.
The foot contains 126 muscles, tendons and ligaments, so there are plenty of 'hiding places' for trigger points. Trigger points in the calf muscles often refer pain directly to the bottom of the
foot. Trigger point therapy of the lower leg and foot can therefore be successful in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.
In unusual cases, surgical intervention is necessary for relief of pain. These should only be employed after non-surgical efforts have been used without relief. Generally, such surgical procedures
may be completed on an outpatient basis in less than one hour, using local anesthesia or minimal sedation administrated by a trained anesthesiologist. In such cases, the surgeon may remove or release
the injured and inflamed fascia, after a small incision is made in the heel. A surgical procedure may also be undertaken to remove bone spurs, sometimes as part of the same surgery addressing the
damaged tissue. A cast may be used to immobilize the foot following surgery and crutches provided in order to allow greater mobility while keeping weight off the recovering foot during healing. After
removal of the cast, several weeks of physical therapy can be used to speed recovery, reduce swelling and restore flexibility.