The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the underneath of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. At the heel it can also have fascial connections to the achilles
tendon. Its job is to maintain the arch of the foot, it acts as a bowstring pulled between the heel and the toes. "Itis" as a suffix indicates inflammation, but with the plantar fascia there is still
some controversy over what exactly happens to the tissue when it becomes painful.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by drastic or sudden increases in mileage, poor foot structure, and inappropriate running shoes, which can overload the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs
from the heel to the base of the toes. The plantar fascia may look like a series of fat rubber bands, but it's made of collagen, a rigid protein that's not very stretchy. The stress of overuse,
overpronation, or overused shoes can rip tiny tears in it, causing pain and inflammation, a.k.a. plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by the following signs and symptoms. Acute plantar fasciitis, pain is usually worse in the morning but may improve when activity continues; if the plantar fasciitis
is severe, activity will exacerbate the pain, pain will worsen during the day and may radiate to calf or forefoot, pain may be described anywhere from "minor pulling" sensation, to "burning", or to
"knife-like", the plantar fascia may be taut or thickened, passive stretching of the plantar fascia or the patient standing on their toes may exacerbate symptoms, acute tenderness deep in the
heel-pad along the insertion of the plantar aponeurosis at the medial calcaneal tuberosity and along the length of the plantar fascia, may have localized swelling. Chronic plantar fasciitis, plantar
fasciitis is classified as "chronic" if it has not resolved after six months, pain occurs more distally along the aponeurosis and spreads into the Achilles tendon.
Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by a health care provider after consideration of a personâs presenting history, risk factors, and clinical examination. Tenderness to palpation along the
inner aspect of the heel bone on the sole of the foot may be elicited during the physical examination. The foot may have limited dorsiflexion due to tightness of the calf muscles or the Achilles
tendon. Dorsiflexion of the foot may elicit the pain due to stretching of the plantar fascia with this motion. Diagnostic imaging studies are not usually needed to diagnose plantar fasciitis.
However, in certain cases a physician may decide imaging studies (such as X-rays, diagnostic ultrasound or MRI) are warranted to rule out other serious causes of foot pain. Bilateral heel pain or
heel pain in the context of a systemic illness may indicate a need for a more in-depth diagnostic investigation. Lateral view x-rays of the ankle are the recommended first-line imaging modality to
assess for other causes of heel pain such as stress fractures or bone spur development. Plantar fascia aponeurosis thickening at the heel greater than 5 millimeters as demonstrated by ultrasound is
consistent with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. An incidental finding associated with this condition is a heel spur, a small bony calcification on the calcaneus (heel bone), which can be found in
up to 50% of those with plantar fasciitis. In such cases, it is the underlying plantar fasciitis that produces the heel pain, and not the spur itself. The condition is responsible for the creation of
the spur though the clinical significance of heel spurs in plantar fasciitis remains unclear.
Non Surgical Treatment
About 80% of plantar fasciitis cases resolve spontaneously by 12 months; 5% of patients end up undergoing surgery for plantar fascia release because all conservative measures have failed. For
athletes in particular, the slow resolution of plantar fasciitis can be a highly frustrating problem. These individuals should be cautioned not to expect overnight resolution, especially if they have
more chronic pain or if they continue their activities. . Generally, the pain resolves with conservative treatment. Although no mortality is associated with this condition, significant morbidity may
occur. Patients may experience progressive plantar pain, leading to limping (antalgic gait) and restriction of activities such as walking and running. In addition, changes in weight-bearing patterns
resulting from the foot pain may lead to associated secondary injury to the hip and knee joints.
Plantar fasciotomy is often considered after conservative treatment has failed to resolve the issue after six months and is viewed as a last resort. Minimally invasive and endoscopic approaches to
plantar fasciotomy exist but require a specialist who is familiar with certain equipment. Heel spur removal during plantar fasciotomy has not been found to improve the surgical outcome. Plantar heel
pain may occur for multiple reasons and release of the lateral plantar nerve branch may be performed alongside the plantar fasciotomy in select cases. Possible complications of plantar fasciotomy
include nerve injury, instability of the medial longitudinal arch of the foot, fracture of the calcaneus, prolonged recovery time, infection, rupture of the plantar fascia, and failure to improve the
pain. Coblation (TOPAZ) surgery has recently been proposed as alternative surgical approaches for the treatment of recalcitrant plantar fasciitis.