Plantar fasciitis is also known as ‘jogger’s heel’ and is a painful condition affecting the heel and the bottom of the foot. Normally this pain is worst on the first step of the day when you get out of bed or straight after a period of rest. It can also be brought on by bending the foot or by lifting the toes upwards. If you have a tight Achilles tendon, this can also make the pain worse and in about 1/3rd of cases, it affects both feet. Normally the condition comes on gradually.
The causes of plantar fasciitis are not fully understood. Risk factors however include overuse and long running – hence the term of ‘jogger’s heel’. Increases in exercise can also cause the problem, as can obesity – which suggests it is to do with pressure on the heel. Those who stand for long periods of time in their job, such as checkout assistants, are also more likely to experience the problem. Obesity is also a risk factor once again implicating pressure.
Plantar fasciitis is associated with inward rolling of the foot and often occurs alongside inflammation and calcaneal spurs (osteophytes found on the heel bone). Neither of these appears to be the cause however. Other related issues include high arches of the feet, unequal leg length and flat feet.
So how do you know if you have plantar fasciitis? The most obvious symptom is pain which will be felt in the heel and which is usually sharp. The pain will worsen when standing on your foot following periods of rest and especially after sleeping or sitting. As you walk, the pain will likely subside.
Normally, this will be the only real symptoms. However in some cases you might also experience numbness, swelling, tingling or radiating pain.
Plantar Fasciitis Remedies
The good news is that 90% of plantar fasciitis cases are self-limiting. The main problem that many runners will have is convincing themselves to take the necessary time out of their running, which then ends up leading to the pain lasting longer and their running being interrupted for longer. If you are a runner, then do yourself the favor of taking the necessary time out to recover. This way, you should find that the problem will subside normally within six months. In some cases it can take up to a year.
There are a number of treatments that can help to speed up recovery too, though some of these plantar fasciitis treatments are unproven.
One relatively safe strategy to use is RICE. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – all of which are normally used to treat conditions that cause swelling. This can help in cases where inflammation is present and can also provide comfort and pain relief.
As mentioned, plantar fasciitis appears to be related to or exacerbated by a tight Achilles tendon. As such, stretching to help improve flexibility may be helpful. If you can’t sit in a full squat position with your heels touching the ground, this might suggest a short or tight tendon and you can use various stretches to relieve this. Stretching and strengthening the calf muscles has also been suggested to be helpful. Before you start pulling and pushing your joints around though, it is highly advised that you seek counsel from a trained physiotherapist or chiropractor who will be able to help confirm the diagnosis and suggest an effective treatment.
Also useful are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These also have the benefit of being analgesic and thus can prevent short-term pain relief. NSAIDs are used as a common treatment for plantar fasciitis and are successful in around 80% of cases.
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
In more severe cases, cortisone injections will sometimes be used. These can provide short-term pain relief, often lasting up to one month. Note though that it is still important to be careful when placing pressure on the heel during this time. Orthotic techniques including taping, braces and splints, shoes, and insoles can also be used to try and prevent pressure on the heel.
Finally, surgery may also be considered if more conservative techniques have proven ineffective over the course of six months. Plantar fasciotomy is considered a last resort and is effective in around 76% of cases, normally without lasting complications. Heel spur removal has not been found to have any effect.