Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the strong band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends lengthwise across the bottom of your foot from the base of the toes to the heel. The plantar fascia provides support and flexibility to the arch and the midfoot region as well as aiding in balance and stability while you’re walking, standing, and running. Plantar fasciitis is a very common cause of chronic heel pain, it can also cause painful symptoms along the bottom of the foot. Pain typically is worse when walking or standing after a period of rest, including right after waking in the morning and any time following a long period of sitting. Symptoms usually feel better after you begin moving around as the plantar fascia “warms up” and becomes more flexible. However, your symptoms will return after another period of sitting still or lying down.
Plantar fasciitis becomes more common with age, partly as a result of years of wear and tear on the plantar fascia, and partly because the fibrous tissue tends to become stiffer and less flexible as you age, causing tiny tears to form in the tissue. If you enjoy activities like running, hiking, or sports like tennis or basketball that result in a lot of impact to your feet, you’re also more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, and the condition is also more common among people who are overweight or obese.
Often, you can temporarily relieve heel pain and other symptoms of plantar fasciitis with medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs), which help reduce inflammation in the tissues. You may also benefit from special splints and exercises that help gently stretch the plantar fascia to:
Many patients find custom orthotics helpful in reducing symptoms by providing necessary support for the arch and relieving strain, providing the plantar fascia with the “rest” it needs to heal. Lifestyle changes like losing excess weight and taking breaks during long periods of sitting may also help.
When these approaches aren’t effective in providing long-term relief for pain and inflammation, your provider may recommend steroid injections to relieve inflammation and promote healing in the plantar fascia and surrounding tissues. When heel pain persists, surgery may be recommended to remove tiny bony growths called heel spurs, which can exacerbate irritation and inflammation in the plantar fascia.
Beginning treatment as soon as you notice symptoms is important for relieving pain and returning to your normal activities as quickly as possible.
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