An overuse foot could develop heel pain in the long run and heel pain is one of the most common foot conditions. What causes the pain? Most of the time, it is caused by the thickening of the plantar fascia called plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis involves pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a strong and supple band of tissue located at the sole of the foot. It acts as a shock absorber and it connects the heel to the other bones of the foot. In addition, it also supports the arch of the foot.
As a shock absorber, the plantar fascia is used to wear and tear. As a result, small tears will be developed and the fascia will be irritated and inflamed. When the area is already inflamed, heel pain and stiffness follow. However, the real cause of plantar fasciitis is still unknown.
On the other hand, the following are the risk factors that can make an individual prone to have plantar fasciitis:
· Overweight and obesity
· Tight or hypo mobile calf muscles and Achilles tendon
· Very high foot arch
· Flat feet
· Repetitive activities (running)
· Wearing shoes with soft soles
A person with plantar fasciitis avoids walking the heel to touch the ground due to pain. The pain is usually felt along the plantar aspect of the heel and is very tender upon palpation. This condition is common in runners, overweight and obese people as well as persons who don’t have adequate foot support. Both men and women can have this condition but the latter is twice more affected than the former.
The other names of plantar fasciitis are jogger’s heel and tennis heel.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
The main symptom is pain. The type of pain can be sharp stabbing or deep aching. The location of pain is on the heel or in the foot arch. Pain is usually worse in the morning when you take your first steps or when you had a rest for a while although pain will decrease or fade away after a few steps, once the foot is warmed up. Pain could also be experienced after an intense activity. Aside from pain, stiffness is also present. Stair ambulation (upstairs) would be difficult due to heel stiffness.
Normally, only one foot is affected by plantar fasciitis but there are also cases where both feet are affected.
How is Plantar Fasciitis Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of plantar fasciitis will base on history, physical examination and radiologic imaging.
During a doctor’s visit, the physician will ask when the symptoms started to be felt, are there activities that aggravate the pain, etc. On physical examination, points of tenderness and pain are determined. Diagnosis can be made through history and assessment but some physicians would want to further confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, patients are advised to have X-ray or MRI to see if there’s another problem that’s causing pain. But most of the time, these tests are not necessary.
Your survival Guide
What can you do
How is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?
With mild symptoms of plantar fasciitis, rest, ice and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful to improve symptoms. However, with moderate to severe symptoms where a person’s activity and function are already affected, physiotherapy is needed.
The focus of physiotherapy is to improve pain. Pain is the root of the other problems. When pain is addressed, others will follow. Pain management is composed of hot compress or ice compress, TENS and ultrasound therapy. Exercises are done afterwards. Treatment can start with doing ROM exercises and alphabet writing with the foot several minutes before standing. Deep massage and stretching of the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon are also done. The calf muscles can also be stretched to further increase the foot’s flexibility. To improve muscle performance, the intrinsic muscles of the foot must be strengthened. This exercise requires toe control and the activities include picking up marbles or any other small objects with the use of toes and scrunching a towel or tissue paper with the use of toes also.
All treatments taught and performed in physiotherapy sessions must also be done at home to make the recovery fast.
Night splints may also be worn to stretch the foot. For patients who have arch problems, there are shoe inserts available to provide support and cushion.
Don't lose your condition
You medical practitioner is likely to advise to stop running, or at least to significantly limit it. So what are you going to do? You don't want to lose all the hard work till now. Think of cross training as a substitute. To get the best result you need something as close as possible to running, but without aggravating your plantar fasciitis. The bionic runner is a great option. It will get your heart rate into running zones and exercise the same muscle groups. In addition it is the only cross trainer with a pivoting pedal. This means that you can work out your legs and heart, but protect your feet. Get back to training now.