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.
Factors which may contribute to plantar fasciitis and heel spurs include a sudden increase in daily activities, increase in weight, or a change of shoes or allowing your current shoes to wear
excessively. Shoes that are too flexible in the middle of the arch or shoes that bend before the toe joints will cause an increase in tension in the plantar fascia. Make sure your shoes are not
excessively worn and that they do not bend in the "middle of the arch".
The most common symptom is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. The heel pain may be dull or sharp. The bottom of the foot may also ache or burn. The pain is often worse in the morning when
you take your first steps, after standing or sitting for awhile, when climbing stairs, after intense activity. The pain may develop slowly over time, or come on suddenly after intense activity.
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Occasionally, further investigations such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI
may be required to assist with diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
Treatment of plantar fasciitis begins with first-line strategies, which you can begin at home. Stretching exercises. Exercises that stretch out the calf muscles help ease pain and assist with
recovery. Avoid going barefoot. When you walk without shoes, you put undue strain and stress on your plantar fascia. Ice. Putting an ice pack on your heel for 20 minutes several times a day helps
reduce inflammation. Place a thin towel between the ice and your heel,do not apply ice directly to the skin. Limit activities. Cut down on extended physical activities to give your heel a rest. Shoe
modifications. Wearing supportive shoes that have good arch support and a slightly raised heel reduces stress on the plantar fascia. Medications. Oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
such as ibuprofen, may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. If you still have pain after several weeks, see your foot and ankle surgeon, who may add one or more of these treatment
approaches. Padding and strapping. Placing pads in the shoe softens the impact of walking. Strapping helps support the foot and reduce strain on the fascia. Orthotic devices. Custom orthotic devices
that fit into your shoe help correct the underlying structural abnormalities causing the plantar fasciitis. Injection therapy. In some cases, corticosteroid injections are used to help reduce the
inflammation and relieve pain. Removable walking cast. A removable walking cast may be used to keep your foot immobile for a few weeks to allow it to rest and heal. Night splint. Wearing a night
splint allows you to maintain an extended stretch of the plantar fascia while sleeping. This may help reduce the morning pain experienced by some patients. Physical therapy. Exercises and other
physical therapy measures may be used to help provide relief.
The most common surgical procedure for plantar fasciitis is plantar fascia release. It involves surgical removal of a part from the plantar fascia ligament which will relieve the inflammation and
reduce the tension. Plantar fascia release is either an open surgery or endoscopic surgery (insertion of special surgical instruments through small incisions). While both methods are performed under
local anesthesia the open procedure may take more time to recover. Other surgical procedures can be used as well but they are rarely an option. Complications of plantar fasciitis surgery are rare but
they are not impossible. All types of plantar fasciitis surgery pose a risk of infection, nerve damage, and anesthesia related complications including systemic toxicity, and persistence or worsening
of heel pain.
You can help to prevent plantar fasciitis by maintaining a healthy weight, by warming up before participating in sports and by wearing shoes that support the arch and cushion the heel. In people who
are prone to episodes of plantar fasciitis, exercises that stretch the heel cord (known as the Achilles tendon) and the plantar fascia may help to prevent plantar fasciitis from returning. Ice
massage also can be used on the bottom of the foot after stressful athletic activities. It is possible that strict control of blood sugar will prevent plantar fasciitis in people with diabetes,
although this has not been proven.