Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain in adults. The disorder classically presents with pain that is particularly severe with the first few steps taken in the morning. In general, plantar
fasciitis is a self-limited condition. However, symptoms usually resolve more quickly when the interval between the onset of symptoms and the onset of treatment is shorter. Many treatment options
exist, including rest, stretching, strengthening, change of shoes, arch supports, orthotics, night splints, anti-inflammatory agents and surgery. Usually, plantar fasciitis can be treated
successfully by tailoring treatment to an individual's risk factors and preferences.
Each time we take a step forward, all of our body weight first rests on the heel of one foot. As our weight moves forward, the entire foot begins to bear the body's weight, and the foot flattens and
this places a great deal of pressure and strain on the plantar fascia. There is very little elasticity to the plantar fascia, so as it stretches only slightly; it pulls on its attachment to the heel.
If the foot is properly aligned this pull causes no problems. However, if the foot is "pronated" (the foot rolls outward at the ankle, causing a break down of the inner side of the shoe), the arch
falls excessively, and this causes an abnormal stretching of the relatively inflexible plantar fascia, which in turn pulls abnormally hard on the heel. The same pathology occurs with "supination"
(the rolling inward of the foot, causing a break down of the outer side of the shoe). Supinated feet are relatively in flexible; usually have a high arch, and a short or tight plantar fascia. Thus as
weight is transferred from the heel to the remainder of the foot, the tight plantar fascia hardly stretches at all, and pulls with great force on its attachment to the heel.
A very common complaint of plantar fasciitis is pain in the bottom of the heel. Plantar fasciitis is usually worse in the morning and may improve throughout the day. By the end of the day the pain
may be replaced by a dull aching that improves with rest. Most people suffering from plantar fasciitis also complain of increased heel pain after walking for a long period of time.
Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by a health care provider after consideration of a personâs presenting history, risk factors, and clinical examination. Tenderness to palpation along the
inner aspect of the heel bone on the sole of the foot may be elicited during the physical examination. The foot may have limited dorsiflexion due to tightness of the calf muscles or the Achilles
tendon. Dorsiflexion of the foot may elicit the pain due to stretching of the plantar fascia with this motion. Diagnostic imaging studies are not usually needed to diagnose plantar fasciitis.
However, in certain cases a physician may decide imaging studies (such as X-rays, diagnostic ultrasound or MRI) are warranted to rule out other serious causes of foot pain. Bilateral heel pain or
heel pain in the context of a systemic illness may indicate a need for a more in-depth diagnostic investigation. Lateral view x-rays of the ankle are the recommended first-line imaging modality to
assess for other causes of heel pain such as stress fractures or bone spur development. Plantar fascia aponeurosis thickening at the heel greater than 5 millimeters as demonstrated by ultrasound is
consistent with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. An incidental finding associated with this condition is a heel spur, a small bony calcification on the calcaneus (heel bone), which can be found in
up to 50% of those with plantar fasciitis. In such cases, it is the underlying plantar fasciitis that produces the heel pain, and not the spur itself. The condition is responsible for the creation of
the spur though the clinical significance of heel spurs in plantar fasciitis remains unclear.
Non Surgical Treatment
Usually, the pain will ease in time. 'Fascia' tissue, like 'ligament' tissue, heals quite slowly. It may take several months or more to go. However, the following treatments may help to speed
recovery. A combination of different treatments may help. Collectively, these initial treatments are known as 'conservative' treatments for plantar fasciitis. Rest your foot. This should be done as
much as possible. Avoid running, excess walking or standing, and undue stretching of your sole. Gentle walking and exercises described below are fine. Footwear. Do not walk barefoot on hard surfaces.
Choose shoes with cushioned heels and a good arch support. A laced sports shoe rather than an open sandal is probably best. Avoid old or worn shoes that may not give a good cushion to your heel. Heel
pads and arch supports. You can buy various pads and shoe inserts to cushion the heel and support the arch of your foot. These work best if you put them in your shoes at all times. The aim is to
raise your heel by about 1 cm. If your heel is tender, cut a small hole in the heel pad at the site of the tender spot. This means that the tender part of your heel will not touch anything inside
your shoe. Place the inserts/pads in both shoes, even if you only have pain in one foot. Pain relief. Painkillers such as paracetamol will often ease the pain. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medicines
such as ibuprofen are useful. These are painkillers but also reduce inflammation and may work better than ordinary painkillers. Some people find that rubbing a cream or gel that contains an
anti-inflammatory medicine on to their heel is helpful. An ice pack (such as a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) held to your foot for 15-20 minutes may also help to relieve pain. Exercises.
Regular, gentle stretching of your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia may help to ease your symptoms. This is because most people with plantar fasciitis have a slight tightness of their Achilles
tendon. If this is the case, it tends to pull at the back of your heel and has a knock-on effect of keeping your plantar fascia tight. Also, when you are asleep overnight, your plantar fascia tends
to tighten up (which is why it is usually most painful first thing in the morning). The aim of these exercises is to loosen up the tendons and fascia gently above and below your heel. Your doctor may
refer you to a physiotherapist for exercise guidance.
When more conservative methods have failed to reduce plantar fasciitis pain, your doctor may suggest extracorporeal shock wave therapy, which is used to treat chronic plantar fasciitis.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy uses sound waves to stimulate healing, but may cause bruises, numbness, tingling, swelling, and pain. When all else fails, surgery may be recommended to detach the
plantar fascia from the heel bone. Few people need surgery to treat the condition.