If you wake up in the morning and your first steps cause heel pain, you likely have plantar fasciitis. Your plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue (a ligament) that stretches from your heel bone to your toes. Along with foot and leg muscles, it supports the arch in your foot and puts a spring in your step. That’s a big job. Think of the million miles you walk during your lifetime.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that occurs when the fascia tissue is under a lot of strain. Recent research shows that the pathology underlying plantar fasciitis is collagen degeneration. Collagen is a protein that’s a cornerstone of your tendons and ligaments as well as your bones and skin. Loss of collagen is part of the aging process in which the tissue loses its elasticity.
Plantar fasciitis usually starts gradually with discomfort around your heel bone. You likely feel it after you exercise. A classic symptom is a sharp, burning pain when you take your first steps in the morning and after you’ve been sitting for a while.
You don’t have to suffer from plantar fasciitis. John Scheffel, DPM, at Scheffel Foot Center treats patients with the condition every week, helping relieve their pain and getting them on their feet again.
Certain people are more susceptible to plantar fasciitis. If you’re a runner or walk long distances for exercise, you’re at increased risk. If your work entails standing or walking on a hard surface like concrete — for example, working in a restaurant or a warehouse — you’re more likely to develop the condition.
Women are diagnosed more commonly than men, and being overweight, which puts extra stress on your feet and legs, is also a risk factor. Genetics and foot structure play a role as well; if you have flat feet or a very high arch you’re more likely to develop the condition.
Plantar fasciitis is most common in active adults ages 40-70. Wearing shoes without arch support can lead to plantar fasciitis.
The plantar fascia tissue needs to be in good condition for you to walk without pain. If the tissue is too soft, your foot can flatten out and lose the arch. If it’s too tight, it becomes overstressed, as it bears all your weight at once.
If you wait too long to seek treatment, plantar fasciitis can become a chronic ailment. You may have adjusted your walking gait to compensate for it, but that can cause knee, hip, and other foot problems to develop.
Following are the most common treatments for plantar fasciitis. Surgery is rarely necessary to alleviate the condition.
If your plantar fascia is very sore, Dr. Scheffel advises you to rest your foot and take a break from the tennis court. Apply an ice pack to the area for 10-20 minutes three or four times a day.
You may already be using an over-the-counter pain reliever. Dr. Scheffel can prescribe a slightly stronger version of ibuprofen or naproxen to help relieve your discomfort. You shouldn’t use these pain relievers long-term, though, because they can cause organ damage.
One of the best remedies for plantar fasciitis is stretching. Dr. Scheffel shows you specific stretches to do at home. You practice them in the office so we’re sure that you’re performing them correctly. These home exercises are a foundation of plantar fasciitis treatment. Doing them daily helps to greatly reduce future attacks.
Dr. Scheffel may prescribe custom orthotics relieve your symptoms. Orthotics can help correct overpronation of your foot when you walk (when the ball of your foot rolls inward too much), which stresses the plantar fascia. Orthotics also can provide a cushion around your heel to act as a shock absorber.
Other treatments include a night splint and taping, as well as injections and sound wave therapy if your pain is severe.
Call us at Scheffel Foot Center or request an appointment through our online portal for expert treatment of plantar fasciitis and all of your foot and ankle needs.