You get out of the bed in the morning and as you take your first steps to the kitchen you feel a burning, stabbing pain on the bottom of your foot. You think you might have plantar fasciitis. But you’re not really sure? “What is plantar fasciitis and how do you treat it” is a question that many ask.
Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain and occurs at the “plantar fascia” on your foot. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot by stretching slightly when you step down and then shortens back to maintain the arch and support your weight as you walk. The plantar fascia absorbs a great deal of weight when walking and especially when running and is therefore prone to injury.
What is Plantar Fasciitis (PF)
Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia generally caused by small tears or over-stretching of the plantar fascia.
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Common causes include:
- Walking, standing, running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces. Athletes are at greater risk of experiencing PF
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit well or don’t provide sufficient cushioning when exercising or standing for long periods
- Arthritis that causes general inflammation in the joints and tendons can also be a contributing cause of PF
- Excessive pronation (feet roll inward while standing or walking)
The most common symptom is a sharp stabbing or burning pain in the heel on the inside of the foot. Pain is most commonly felt in the morning when first walking and stretching the foot. This is thought to be due to the fact that while you sleep, the plantar fascia shortens and when you stand in the morning, the inflamed or torn fibers of the plantar fascia are stretched, causing pain. Once the foot limbers up, the pain usually diminishes but it may return after long periods of standing, climbing stairs or getting up from a seated position. The pain may lessen throughout the day only to return later.
Give your feet a rest and try not to walk or run on hard surfaces. You can help reduce pain and swelling by icing the foot for 10-15 minutes after exercising and taking anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Other Treatment Options
- Rub the bottom of your foot vigorously before putting any weight on it in the morning or after prolonged periods of sitting – this will warm up the fascia to prevent recurring micro tears
- Doing exercises such as calf and toe stretches before you get out of bed and taking your first step is recommended
- Firmly pressing on and rolling a tennis ball under your foot is a good way to achieve a deep massage
- A foot brace or splint that keeps a slight stretch on the arch can be very helpful. Choose a splint that that can be used at night or worn in shoes during the day, such as the FS6 Compression Foot Sleeve, 3pp® PF Lift, or the 3pp® Arch Lift.
- Wear shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole
- Orthotics may be recommended. Orthotics are insoles that go inside your shoes to provide added arch support, especially if you stand or run for long periods of time; wear both orthotics even if only one foot hurts
- Your healthcare provider may prescribe a cortisone shot in your heel to help reduce inflammation
Treatment can last a few weeks, but could take up to several months to a year. It is important to follow your healthcare providers instructions consistently. If symptoms persist after a year of treatment, surgery may be an option, but it’s not common.
How can I prevent it from coming back?
Wear supportive shoes and replace athletic shoes regularly. If prescribed orthotics, wear them as directed and continue stretching and exercises, especially in the morning. Increase athletic activity gradually to reduce the chance of a flare up. For example, a runner should not increase mileage by more than 10% a week. If your foot still hurts in the morning, wear your splint while sleeping. This will help keep the arch tissue loose.
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