Heel pain affects many people and can stop them from participating in some of their favorite activities and can impede mobility. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. This condition develops over time and eventually causes a significant amount of pain in the heels for patients throughout New Hampshire.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of connective tissue that runs from the heel to the toes along the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is more common in females and those who are overweight. It's a progressive condition, which means that it starts off with mild symptoms which can become worse over time.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis has a variety of causes, that mostly relate to excessive pressure on the ligament. First, as mentioned above, being overweight can put additional pressure on the ligaments in the feet, leading to inflammation and pain.
Additionally, those who spend a lot of time on their feet like servers, nurses, and factory workers are also at a higher risk of developing heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
Athletes who participate in sports and activities with a lot of running and jumping that irritate the ligaments in the bottom of the foot can develop this painful heel condition.
Patients with foot conditions like high arches or flat feet may also have a higher likelihood of developing plantar fasciitis. The fascia is already slightly stretched with these conditions which makes them more prone to inflammation. Similarly, tight Achilles’ tendons can pull on the plantar fascia leading to inflammation and pain in the heels.
It's possible, but less likely, that heel spurs cause cases of plantar fasciitis. A heel spur is a calcium deposit that builds up on the heel. It's possible that these bone hooks can irritate the fascia, but this is a much less common cause of plantar fasciitis than the causes reviewed above. Heel spurs do cause heel pain, but in a different way than plantar fasciitis.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain. The pain is typically more acute in the morning, when you wake up, get out of bed, and put your feet on the floor for the first time. The foot pain may also be worse after you have been sitting still for an extended period of time.
Many people may experience tightness or stiffness along the middle of the foot or extending up into the Achilles’ tendon and calf. The pain and stiffness will get worse over time without treatment.
Also, different patients may experience different kinds of pain. Some patients describe the pain as a dull ache, while others report a more acute shooting or stabbing pain that radiates up through the ankles or through the arch of the foot. Patients may notice swelling and mobility issues due to stiffness that causes difficulty in bending and flexing the foot.
How are plantar fasciitis and heel pain diagnosed?
Your New Hampshire podiatrist will perform an exam testing your feet for tenderness and the exact location of pain in the heel and mid-sole of the foot. The doctor will also test your flexibility, reflexes, muscle tone, coordination, and balance. The doctor may also order diagnostic imaging tests such as x-rays or MRIs to rule out other causes of heel pain such as a bone fracture.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Stretching is typically the first approach to treating heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Your trusted podiatrist will teach you a variety of stretches and massage maneuvers to release tension in the ligaments of your foot, the Achilles’ tendon and the muscles of the calf.
You may also be advised to freeze a bottle of water and to roll your foot with the frozen bottle to relieve inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are another commonly suggested initial and conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis.
Many patients also benefit from the use of orthotic devices. Shoe inserts may help to support the arch of the foot. Athletes may use special arch supports while running, training, or competing in their sport. Some patients find relief from wearing foot slings overnight to prevent the foot from flopping out and putting extra stress on the Achilles’ tendon and calf muscles.
If these conservative approaches to treatment are not effective, your podiatrist may suggest corticosteroid injections. In many cases, your doctor will use ultrasound technology to determine the best location for the injections. The steroid will reduce inflammation and pain for a longer period of time than anti-inflammatory medication taken by mouth.
While the steroid injections reduce the inflammation, patients are often advised to have physical therapy to restore flexibility to the plantar fascia and the muscles and tendons that attach to it and contribute to the root cause of heel pain.
How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?
Anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet or puts a lot of excess pressure on their feet through physical activity should make sure to stretch their legs, especially their calves and feet on a daily basis. It's recommended to stretch and massage the feet and calves first thing in the morning and then several times throughout the day to keep the ligaments relaxed and free of inflammation. Athletes should do their best to train and compete on soft surfaces. Patients who are overweight should try to lose weight to reduce the pressure on their feet.
When should I see a doctor about plantar fasciitis?
If your heel pain prevents you from participating in normal day to day activities or from training or competing in the sport that you love, you should seek professional treatment from a gifted New Hampshire podiatrist like Dr. Nagy.
There is no reason to live in pain when medical advice and treatment can help you to find relief and get back to your normal activities. Also, if you experience any numbness or tingling in your feet, ankles, or legs you should seek medical attention for your heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
If you have any concerns or questions about your heel pain, contact the expert podiatrists at Nagy Footcare. Dr. Nagy and his team will provide comprehensive diagnostics and treatment to relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis and treat the root cause of the condition.
At Nagy Footcare, our best day is the day you wake up with no foot pain.