Plantar fasciitis is a common, painful foot condition. Patients, and sometimes doctors often confuse the terms plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Plantar fasciitis refers to the syndrome of
inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from the heel along the arch of the foot; a heel spur is a hook of bone that can form on the heel bone (calcaneus). About 70% of patients with plantar
fasciitis have been noted to have a heel spur that can be seen on x-ray. Plantar fasciitis is most often seen in middle-aged men and women, but can be found in all age groups. The condition is
diagnosed with the classic symptoms of pain well focused deep in the heel area of the bottom of the foot. Often the pain from plantar fasciitis is most severe when you first stand on your feet in the
morning. Pain often subsides quite quickly, but then returns after prolonged standing or walking. Plantar fasciitis is sometimes, but not always, associated with a rapid gain of weight. It is also
sometimes seen in recreational athletes, especially runners. In these athletes, it is thought that the repetitive nature of the sports causes the damage to the fibrous tissue that forms the arch of
The most frequent cause is an abnormal motion of the foot called excessive pronation. Normally, while walking or during long distance running, your foot will strike the ground on the heel, then roll
forward toward your toes and inward to the arch. Your arch should only dip slightly during this motion. If it lowers too much, you have what is known as excessive pronation. For more details on
pronation, please see the section on biomechanics and gait. Clinically not only those with low arches, but those with high arches can sometimes have plantar fasciitis. The mechanical structure of
your feet and the manner in which the different segments of your feet are linked together and joined with your legs has a major impact on their function and on the development of mechanically caused
problems. Merely having "flat feet" won't take the spring out of your step, but having badly functioning feet with poor bone alignment will adversely affect the muscles, ligaments, and tendons and
can create a variety of aches and pains. Excess pronation can cause the arch of your foot to stretch excessively with each step. It can also cause too much motion in segments of the foot that should
be stable as you are walking or running. This "hypermobility" may cause other bones to shift and cause other mechanically induced problems.
The most obvious symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain on the bottom of the foot, near the heel. Here are some signals that this pain may be plantar fasciitis. The pain is strongest first
thing in the morning but gets better after a few minutes of walking around. The pain is worse after standing for a long time or after getting up from sitting. The pain develops gradually and becomes
worse over time. The pain is worse after exercise or activity than it is during activity. It hurts when stretching the foot. It hurts when pressing on the sides of the heel or arch of the foot.
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
A number of conservative measures can help take stress off the plantar fascia and encourage healing, including Icing, Taping the arch and bottom of the foot, Stretching, especially the calf, Avoiding
walking with bare feet, especially on hard surfaces, Wearing orthotics or arch supports, Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. If these methods fail, we generally try one of two things, A
cortisone injection can help reduce swelling. Often a single injection will do the trick, but occasionally a second injection may be needed. Alternatively, we can try extracorporeal pulse activation
therapy, or EPAT. This method uses sound waves to penetrate to the plantar fascia and stimulate the bodyâs healing response. We typically do one treatment a week for three weeks, with complete
healing taking between nine to 12 weeks.
If treatment hasn't worked and you still have painful symptoms after a year, your GP may refer you to either an orthopaedic surgeon, a surgeon who specialises in surgery that involves bones, muscles
and joints, a podiatric surgeon, a podiatrist who specialises in foot surgery. Surgery is sometimes recommended for professional athletes and other sportspeople whose heel pain is adversely affecting
their career. Plantar release surgery. Plantar release surgery is the most widely used type of surgery for heel pain. The surgeon will cut the fascia to release it from your heel bone and reduce the
tension in your plantar fascia. This should reduce any inflammation and relieve your painful symptoms. Surgery can be performed either as, open surgery, where the section of the plantar fascia is
released by making a cut into your heel, endoscopic or minimal incision surgery - where a smaller incision is made and special instruments are inserted through the incision to gain access to the
plantar fascia. Endoscopic or minimal incision surgery has a quicker recovery time, so you will be able to walk normally much sooner (almost immediately), compared with two to three weeks for open
surgery. A disadvantage of endoscopic surgery is that it requires both a specially trained surgical team and specialised equipment, so you may have to wait longer for treatment than if you were to
choose open surgery. Endoscopic surgery also carries a higher risk of damaging nearby nerves, which could result in symptoms such as numbness, tingling or some loss of movement in your foot. As with
all surgery, plantar release carries the risk of causing complications such as infection, nerve damage and a worsening of your symptoms after surgery (although this is rare). You should discuss the
advantages and disadvantages of both techniques with your surgical team. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (EST) is a fairly new type of non-invasive treatment. Non-invasive means it does not involve
making cuts into your body. EST involves using a device to deliver high-energy soundwaves into your heel. The soundwaves can sometimes cause pain, so a local anaesthetic may be used to numb your
heel. It is claimed that EST works in two ways. It is thought to, have a "numbing" effect on the nerves that transmit pain signals to your brain, help stimulate and speed up the healing process.
However, these claims have not yet been definitively proven. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance about the use of EST for treating plantar fasciitis. NICE
states there are no concerns over the safety of EST, but there are uncertainties about how effective the procedure is for treating heel pain. Some studies have reported that EST is more effective
than surgery and other non-surgical treatments, while other studies found the procedure to be no better than a placebo (sham treatment).
The following steps will help prevent plantar fasciitis or help keep the condition from getting worse if you already have it. Take care of your feet. Wear shoes with good arch support and heel
cushioning. If your work requires you to stand on hard surfaces, stand on a thick rubber mat to reduce stress on your feet. Do exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel. This
is especially important before sports, but it is helpful for non-athletes as well. Ask your doctor about recommendations for a stretching routine. Stay at a healthy weight for your height. Establish
good exercise habits. Increase your exercise levels gradually, and wear supportive shoes. If you run, alternate running with other sports that will not cause heel pain. Put on supportive shoes as
soon as you get out of bed. Going barefoot or wearing slippers puts stress on your feet. If you feel that work activities caused your heel pain, ask your human resources department for information
about different ways of doing your job that will not make your heel pain worse. If you are involved in sports, you may want to consult a sports training specialist for training and conditioning
programs to prevent plantar fasciitis from recurring.