Plantar fasciitis is characterized by a stabbing or burning pain in the heel that is particularly acute upon getting up in the morning. The plantar fascia serves as a shock-absorbing bow that supports the arch in the foot. If there is too much tension on that bow, small tears can occur and the fascia may become irritated or inflamed. In addition to pain in the morning, symptoms may include pain that occurs after standing for long periods, pain after getting up from being seated, heel pain following exercise, and mild swelling in the heel.
Causes of plantar fasciitis
- Poorly fitting shoes
If left untreated, plantar fasciitis may become a chronic condition and can lead to other foot, knee, hip and back problems due to the way pain impacts normal walking patterns.
Resting the foot is the first course of treatment for plantar fasciitis. Ice may be applied to relieve symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications along with a home exercise program to stretch the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are the most common early treatments.
Most people see significant improvement in their condition after two months of treatment. Patients are often advised to wear shoes with very cushioned soles or with an orthotic device like a rubber heel pad.
If the condition does not respond after a few months of conservative treatment, the physician may recommend a injection of a steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. A walking cast or a positional splint for sleeping hours may be required if the symptoms do not improve. In a few cases, surgery may be needed to release the ligament or to lengthen a muscle.
Reproduced with permission from Fischer S, (interim ed): Your Orthopaedic Connection. Rosemont, IL, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Available at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org.org/.