The Plantar Fascia is a strong ligament-like structure under the arch of the foot that runs from the heel bone to the ball of the foot. If we could see it in isolation it has a triangular shape when
looked at from underneath but has a curved shape when looked at from the side - much like a sail boatâs sail billowing in the wind. The most functional piece is from the front-bottom-inside area of
the heel bone (calcaneous) to the joint of the big toe (hallux) and this is where the majority of stress of walking (and running and jumping) is taken by the fascia. How your plantar fascia reacts to
and recovers from this stress is what determines the extent and nature of your plantar fasciitis.
Patients with tight calf muscles will suffer with excessive pulling of the muscle group on the back of the heel. This in turn creates pulling of other structures that are attached to the heel,
including the Plantar Fascia. When the pulling continues for long enough, then inflammation will develop and lead to Plantar Fasciitis. This causes Heel Pain. It is extremely common for patients who
increase their level of activity to develop Plantar Fasciitis. Boot camp, running, zumba, recreational walking or other quick movement sports such as tennis or touch football are typical causes of
Heel Pain. The sharp increase in exercise is too much for the foot to cope with and the stress on the Plantar Fascia causes inflammation. The Heel Pain that is caused by this inflammation is known as
Pain is the main symptom. This can be anywhere on the underside of your heel. However, commonly, one spot is found as the main source of pain. This is often about 4 cm forward from your heel, and may
be tender to touch. The pain is often worst when you take your first steps on getting up in the morning, or after long periods of rest where no weight is placed on your foot. Gentle exercise may ease
things a little as the day goes by, but a long walk or being on your feet for a long time often makes the pain worse. Resting your foot usually eases the pain. Sudden stretching of the sole of your
foot may make the pain worse, for example, walking up stairs or on tiptoes. You may limp because of pain. Some people have plantar fasciitis in both feet at the same time.
Your doctor can usually diagnose plantar fasciitis just by talking to you and examining your feet. Rarely, tests are needed if the diagnosis is uncertain or to rule out other possible causes of heel
pain. These can include X-rays of the heel or an ultrasound scan of the fascia. An ultrasound scan usually shows thickening and swelling of the fascia in plantar fasciitis.
Non Surgical Treatment
Check your shoes to make sure they offer sufficient support and motion control. They should bend only at the ball of the foot, where your toes attach to the foot. This is very important. Avoid any
shoe that bends in the center of the arch or behind the ball of the foot. It offers insufficient support and will stress your plantar fascia. The human foot was not designed to bend here and neither
should a shoe be designed to do this. You may also strengthen the muscles in your arch by performing toe curls or "doming". Toe curls may be done by placing a towel on a kitchen floor and then
curling your toes to pull the towel towards you. This exercise may also be done without the towel against the resistance of the floor. Plantar fasciitis is usually controlled with conservative
treatment. Besides surgery and cortisone injections, physical therapy modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound can be used. Often the foot will be taped to limit pronation. Following
control of the pain and inflammation an orthotic (a custom made shoe insert) can be used to control over-pronation.
Most practitioners agree that treatment for plantar fasciitis is a slow process. Most cases resolve within a year. If these more conservative measures don't provide relief after this time, your
doctor may suggest other treatment. In such cases, or if your heel pain is truly debilitating and interfering with normal activity, your doctor may discuss surgical options with you. The most common
surgery for plantar fasciitis is called a plantar fascia release and involves releasing a portion of the plantar fascia from the heel bone. A plantar fascia release can be performed through a regular
incision or as endoscopic surgery, where a tiny incision allows a miniature scope to be inserted and surgery to be performed. About one in 20 patients with plantar fasciitis will need surgery. As
with any surgery, there is still some chance that you will continue to have pain afterwards.
Stretching exercises for the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are recommend to relieve pain and aid in the healing process. Sometimes application of athletic tape is recommended. In moderate or
severe cases of plantar fasciitis, your doctor may recommend you wearing a night splint, which will stretch the arch of your foot and calf while you sleep. This helps to lengthen the Achilles tendon
and plantar fascia for symptom relief. Depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis, your physician may prescribe a store-bought orthotic (arch support) or custom-fitted orthotic to help
distribute your foot pressure more evenly.