Plantar Fasciitis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Treatment
What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation or swelling of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis causes pain on the bottom of the foot. This pain usually occurs with the first step in the morning or after a period of rest. This condition can make walking more difficult.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common orthopedic foot complaints and affects both men and women.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is mainly caused by strain injury due to overstretching or overuse of your foot. Inflammation or swelling occurs when the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot (fascia) is overstretched or overused.
The following are the other likely causes of plantar fasciitis:
- Foot arch problems (both flat feet and high arches)
- Running long distances, downhill or on uneven surfaces
- Tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel)
- Wearing shoes with soft soles or poor arch support
- Changing your activities
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
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 may develop slowly over time, or come on suddenly after intense activity.
The pain usually occurs or worsens:
- In the morning with first steps
- After standing or sitting for a while
- When climbing stairs
- After intense activity
- Walking, running, and jumping sports
How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review symptoms. The exam may reveal:
- Pain on the bottom of your foot.
- Pain along the sole of the foot.
- Flat feet or high arches.
- Mild foot swelling or redness.
- Stiffness or tightness of the arch in the bottom of your foot.
The doctor may order x-rays to rule out other problems.
How is plantar fasciitis treated?
Many treatment options are available for plantar fasciitis. Treatment can include rest, physiotherapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe inserts, night splints, arch supports, orthotics, pain relievers, steroid injections, or surgery. The doctor will devise an appropriate treatment plan based on individual risk factors and preferences.
Your doctor may first recommend the following:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Resting as much as possible for at least a week
- Heel and foot stretching exercises
- Night splints to wear while sleeping to stretch the foot
- Wearing shoes with good support and cushions
- Applying ice to the painful area at least twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes.
If the above treatments do not work, your doctor may recommend:
- Wearing a boot cast for 3 to 6 weeks.
- Custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics)
- Steroid shots or injections into the heel
Sometimes, the doctor may recommend foot surgery.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.