If you wake up in the morning and dread getting out of bed to take that first step because it’s painful, then you might be suffering from Plantar Fasciitis. Heel pain, or plantar fasciitis to be technical, can vary from a mild discomfort to a very painful and debilitating pain. It’s also reported to affect 2 million people in the US, and will affect 10% of the population over a lifetime. The pain usually runs across the bottom of the foot, and may present a sharp stabbing pain when taking the first few steps after waking up, or standing after sitting for a long time, but usually subsides turning into a dull ache that gets worse as the day goes on.
The plantar fascia is made of fibrous bands of tissue that run from the heel bone to the toes and contract and stretch with each step. As such, the plantar fascia is designed to absorb significant weight and pressure and act as a shock absorber. Excessive stress on the tissue may lead to tears and inflammation that leads to the pain. Contributing factors are obesity, rapid weight gain, sudden increase in activity as seen by recreational athletes, jobs that require excessive standing on hard surfaces, bad shoes with little support, and flat feet.
Plantar Fasciitis can be a nagging problem, but can quickly progress to a painful condition affecting your quality of life. At the first sign of soreness, or pain, massage your feet several times a day by rolling a golf ball under your foot, and roll a frozen bottle of water under your foot. Decrease stressful activity like running, or jumping, but if you do, make sure you’re wearing shoes with proper arch support, and avoid walking barefoot.
If the pain persists longer than 4 weeks, see a podiatrist for an evaluation. Treatment such as corrective orthotics and cortisone injections can be very helpful. If pain persists, seek out your physical therapist for therapeutic exercises, for night splinting along with modalities such as ultrasound, laser therapy, and iontopheresis, which are all anti-inflammatory modalities. If pain still persists, then there are more intense options such as Shock-wave Therapy, and surgery. But in 95% of cases, symptoms decrease within 6 weeks of anti-inflammatory treatments and stretching.
by Michael Rizkalla, OTR/L