The undersurface of the foot has a support system that contains skin, muscles and tendons. One such tendon that plays a predominant role in supporting the foot is the plantar fascia. Inflammation of this plantar fascia can lead to a painful condition called plantar fasciitis.
Many of us often experience pain under our feet when standing for long hours or when walking or running for long periods of time. However, there are some others that experience it even after taking a period of rest.
The plantar fascia extends from the heel bone as a dense band of tissue that then fans out and attaches itself to the toes. At night, it can become quite tight and inflamed and this is experienced as pain when the foot is placed on the ground early in the morning. This painful condition where the plantar fascia is inflamed is called plantar fasciitis.
Causes of plantar fasciitis
There are no real causes of plantar fasciitis that have been identified. However, it does appear that being overweight, lack of exercise and overpronation of the foot when walking or exercising can all lead to damage to the plantar fascia and subsequent pain.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis
The most common symptom experienced is pain especially in early hours of the morning. Some individuals who spend time in front of a computer may also experience pain when they get up after a while to take a walk. Generally, the pain gets better after walking a little while though in a small number of cases individuals may experience increasing pain with the continued exercise.
Upon examination, it is evident that the plantar fascia is tender when pressed. This tenderness is especially prominent at the heel bone.
Diagnosis and management
A diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is mostly made through clinical examination and history. There are no specific tests that can help diagnose the problem though sometimes an x-ray of the foot may reveal the presence of calcification of the plantar fascia tendon insertion on the heel bone.
The best way to manage plantar fasciitis is to reduce stress on the plantar fascia. This can be achieved by losing weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
If exercise is a problem, it is important to have appropriate insoles in your footwear to ensure that the foot does not over-pronate during walking or exercise. Insoles are now readily available online and in medical stores.
Changing footwear may also be important especially if you are an athlete or participate in long distance running.
Certain stretching exercises can help the release the tension that the plantar fascia is under and can relieve the pain as well. These exercises need to be performed every day. Physical therapists are a good guide when it comes to managing plantar fasciitis through exercises.
Finally, newer therapies such as ultrasound wave therapy and even surgical release have been considered for those who have extreme degrees of plantar fasciitis. Orthotic devices are available that can be worn overnight to keep the tendon stretched and to prevent it from becoming taut and painful.
Plantar fasciitis is a painful problem. Simple measures can help relieve the discomfort experienced. Exercises appear to be the best way to treat this condition.