Plantar Fasciitis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, AND Treatment.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is a condition that causes severe pain at the bottom of the heel. It occurs due to inflammation in the thick band of the tissue known as plantar fascia. It connects the heel bone to the front portion of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is one among the common repetitive strain injuries, which affects the runners, overweight people and wears ill-fitting shoes.
Plantar fascia s acts as the support to the arch of the foot. Sometimes, too much of pressure on the feet damages the ligaments and causes inflammation. Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing pain, especially while taking the first few steps in the morning.
What are the Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis results from repetitive stress on the sole of the foot. It is also caused when too much of weight is imposed on the feet for several hours in a day. Sometimes, shoes with thin soles or high-heeled shoes can cause severe pain in the ligaments, which can further cause plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis can occur due to injury or arthritic conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter’s disease, and diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis. Pregnancy can impose weight on the lower legs and feet, especially during the third trimester.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis:
The common signs and symptoms of plantar Fasciitis include:
- Stabbing pain near the heel
- Heel stiffness or tenderness
- Difficulty in climbing the stairs
- Pain that increased after a prolonged activity
- Difficulty in standing on the affected foot
- Difficulty in walking barefoot
- Foot tingling or burning
- Warm or swollen feet at the bottom
Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis:
Sometimes plantar fasciitis may develop without any proper causes or risk factors. However, the following are the factors that increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis include:
- Age: The risk of acquiring plantar fasciitis increases with the age of an individual. People under the age group of 40 to 60 years are at an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis. The ligaments and muscles in the older people become weaker, thereby contributing to foot problems.
- Obesity: Overweight imposes extra pressure and stress on the feet, thereby increase the risk for plantar fasciitis.
- Certain exercises: Sometimes, running for long distances, certain sports, jumping activities, and aerobic dance can contribute to the onset of the condition.
- Gender: Females are at an increased risk of developing the condition than males.
- Diabetes: High blood sugar levels contribute to the risk of developing heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
- Improper footwear: Wearing abnormal pattern of footwear will not distribute the weight evenly while standing, which can add stress in the feet and increase the risk for plantar fasciitis.
- Occupational reasons: Teachers, factory workers, and certain other occupations that require more hours of standing would increase the risk for plantar fasciitis.
Complications of Plantar Fasciitis:
If plantar fasciitis is left untreated for longer periods, it can interfere with the regular activities and may also lead to certain potential complications, which include:
- Plantar tears: Untreated plantar fasciitis can cause stress to the plantar fascia, which may result in small tears and pain that worsens gradually. If such small tears are not treated immediately, they can grow in size and increase the risk of rupture.
- Plantar rupture: Plantar fasciitis can cause a plantar rupture, which is more common in people participating in the activities, such as jogging and other sports activities.
- Plantar Fibromatosis: When a tear in the plantar fascia is left untreated, it can increase the chances of developing plantar fibromatosis. Plantar fibromatosis is a condition where slow-growing nodules appear along the plantar fascia, which is uncomfortable and painful while walking.
- Heel spurs: Over time, plantar fasciitis can result in calcium deposition, which further develops into pointed bony outgrowths known as heel spurs.
Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis:
To diagnose plantar fasciitis, the doctor will perform a physical examination and check for the symptoms of the condition. The doctor will evaluate the condition by examining the area of pain and by observing the reflexes. The doctor would recommend the following tests to diagnose the condition, which include:
- X-ray examination: The doctor would suggest an X-ray examination to check for the inflammation of the tissues and identify the bone spurs projecting out from the heel bone.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): In this procedure, high power radio waves and magnetic fields are used to obtain the images of the internal structures (soft tissues). This test helps to find out the underlying cause of heel pain.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis:
The treatment aims to reduce the pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia ligament. The doctor will recommend a treatment, which would be a combination of medications and physical therapy. The treatment options for plantar fasciitis include:
- Medications: The doctor will prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen and ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia. Depending on the severity of plantar fasciitis, the doctor may recommend these medications for few days to several weeks.
- If NSAID medications are not effective to reduce the pain, the doctor might prescribe steroid injections to ease the pain associated with plantar fascia.
- Physical therapy: Along with the medications, a physiotherapist would teach some foot exercises to ease the pain. Physical therapy helps to strengthen the achilles tendon, plantar fascia, and lower legs. The doctor would also instruct a series of stretching exercises to stabilize the ankle and heel.
- Orthotics: The doctor would prescribe cushioned arch supports to balance the pressure equally on the entire foot.
- Night splints: The doctor may also advise wearing a splint during nights to stretch the calf and arch of the foot. Wearing splints facilitate stretching of the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon.
- Shock-wave therapy: In this procedure, sound waves are focused on the area where there is heel pain. The procedure helps to stimulate the blood flow and heal the tissue suffering from pain.
Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis:
The following are some of the measures to prevent the risk of plantar fasciitis:
- Avoid walking barefoot for long distances, especially on sand and hard surfaces
- Avoid wearing uncomfortable footwear while standing for long hours
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce excess stress on the feet
- Practice regular exercises to improve flexibility in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles
- Avoid wearing high heels throughout the day as it may strain the arch