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.
Currently no single factor has been reliably identified as contributing to the development of plantar fasciitis. The two risk factors with the most support from current research. Decreased ankle
dorsiflexion. Increased Body Mass Index (BMI) in non-athletic populations. These factors are related in that both lead to increased strain on the arch, both lead to increased compression on the heel.
When dorsiflexion range of motion (ankle flexibility) is lacking, the body compensates by increasing movement of the arch. In this way, decreased ankle dorsiflexion influences pronation and places
strain on the underside of the foot. Similarly, having a high BMI causes strain because it places a load on the foot that may be in excess of what the foot can support. As mentioned earlier,
overpronation is thought to be a contributing factor, but studies on this have so far produced mixed results. The second way these factors relate to each other is in the way people stand. A lack of
ankle flexibility and a high BMI can both cause increased pressure on the heel in standing. Keeping weight on the heels causes compression under the heel. But it also means the muscles and ligaments
in the arch are not being used to balance your body weight. Lack of use, I suspect, is a greater danger than overuse. Looking beyond these potential contributors to heel pain though, there is one
major factor that overshadows them all-the way footwear alters the normal function of the foot.
The pain is more intense with your first steps out of bed in the morning or after sitting for a while. The reason for this is that during rest our muscles and ligaments tend to shorten and tighten
up. The tightening of the plantar fascia means more traction on the ligament making the tissue even more sensitive. With sudden weight-bearing the tissue is being traumatised, resulting in a stabbing
pain. After walking around for a while the ligament warms up, becomes a little bit more flexible and adapts itself, making the pain go way entirely or becoming more of a dull ache. However, after
walking a long distance or standing for hours the pain will come back again. To prevent the sudden sharp pain in the morning or after sitting, it is important to give the feet a little warm-up first
with some simple exercises. Also, any barefoot walking should be avoided, especially first thing in the morning, as this will damage to the plantar fascia tissue. Aparty from pain in the heel or
symptoms may include a mild swelling under the heel. In addition, heel pain is often associated with tightness in the calf muscles. Tight calf muscles are a major contributing factor to Plantar
Your doctor will check your feet and watch you stand and walk. He or she will also ask questions about your past health, including what illnesses or injuries you have had. Your symptoms, such as
where the pain is and what time of day your foot hurts most. How active you are and what types of physical activity you do. Your doctor may take an X-ray of your foot if he or she suspects a problem
with the bones of your foot, such as a stress fracture.
Non Surgical Treatment
Management options are usually conservative. Local injection of steroids, local anaesthetic may be useful to manage symptoms. Ultrasound-guided steroid injection has been shown to be effective in
short-term (four-week) pain relief and reduced thickness of the plantar fascia at three months. A posterior tibial nerve block can be performed prior for a less painful plantar fascia injection.
Specific plantar fascia stretching exercises performed daily have been shown to reduce short-term (8 weeks) and long-term (two years) pain. Other supportive measures include weight reduction in obese
patients, rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and reduction of weight-bearing pressure (soft rubber heel pad, molded orthosis, or heel cup or soft-soled shoes).
The most common surgical procedure for plantar fasciitis is plantar fascia release. It involves surgical removal of a part from the plantar fascia ligament which will relieve the inflammation and
reduce the tension. Plantar fascia release is either an open surgery or endoscopic surgery (insertion of special surgical instruments through small incisions). While both methods are performed under
local anesthesia the open procedure may take more time to recover. Other surgical procedures can be used as well but they are rarely an option. Complications of plantar fasciitis surgery are rare but
they are not impossible. All types of plantar fasciitis surgery pose a risk of infection, nerve damage, and anesthesia related complications including systemic toxicity, and persistence or worsening
of heel pain.
The following steps will help prevent plantar fasciitis or help keep the condition from getting worse if you already have it. Take care of your feet. Wear shoes with good arch support and heel
cushioning. If your work requires you to stand on hard surfaces, stand on a thick rubber mat to reduce stress on your feet. Do exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel. This
is especially important before sports, but it is helpful for non-athletes as well. Ask your doctor about recommendations for a stretching routine. Stay at a healthy weight for your height. Establish
good exercise habits. Increase your exercise levels gradually, and wear supportive shoes. If you run, alternate running with other sports that will not cause heel pain. Put on supportive shoes as
soon as you get out of bed. Going barefoot or wearing slippers puts stress on your feet. If you feel that work activities caused your heel pain, ask your human resources department for information
about different ways of doing your job that will not make your heel pain worse. If you are involved in sports, you may want to consult a sports training specialist for training and conditioning
programs to prevent plantar fasciitis from recurring.