Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the plantar fascia, a fibrous band of tissue on the bottom of the foot that helps to support the arch. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this band of tissue
is overloaded or overstretched. This causes small tears in the fibers of the fascia, especially where the fascia meets the heel bone. Plantar fasciitis is common in obese people and in pregnant
women, perhaps because their extra body weight overloads the delicate plantar fascia. It is also more common in people with diabetes, although the exact reason for this is unknown. Plantar fasciitis
also can be triggered by physical activities that overstretch the fascia, including sports (volleyball, running, tennis), other exercises (step aerobics, stair climbing) or household exertion
(pushing furniture or a large appliance). In athletes, plantar fasciitis may follow intense training, especially in runners who push themselves too quickly to run longer distances. Worn or poorly
constructed shoes can contribute to the problem if they do not provide enough arch support, heel cushion or sole flexibility.
Plantar Fasciitis often leads to heel pain, heel spurs, and/or arch pain. The excessive stretching of the plantar fascia that leads to the inflammation and discomfort can be caused by the following:
Over-pronation (flat feet) which results in the arch collapsing upon weight bearing A foot with an unusually high arch A sudden increase in physical activity Excessive weight on the foot, usually
attributed to obesity or pregnancy Improperly fitting footwear Over-pronation (flat feet) is the leading cause of plantar fasciitis. Over-pronation occurs in the walking process, when a person's arch
collapses upon weight bearing, causing the plantar fascia to be stretched away from the heel bone. With Plantar Fasciitis, the bottom of your foot usually hurts near the inside of the foot where the
heel and arch meet. The pain is often acute either first thing in the morning or after a long rest, because while resting the plantar fascia contracts back to its original shape. As the day
progresses and the plantar fascia continues to be stretched, the pain often subsides.
When a patient has plantar fasciitis, the connective tissue that forms the arch of the foot becomes inflamed (tendonitis) and degenerative (tendinosis)--these abnormalities cause plantar fasciitis
and can make normal activities quite painful. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis are typically worsened early in the morning after sleep. At that time, the arch tissue is tight and simple movements
stretch the contracted tissue. As you begin to loosen the foot, the pain usually subsides, but often returns with prolonged standing or walking.
After you describe your symptoms and discuss your concerns, your doctor will examine your foot. Your doctor will look for these signs. A high arch, an area of maximum tenderness on the bottom of your
foot, just in front of your heel bone. Pain that gets worse when you flex your foot and the doctor pushes on the plantar fascia. The pain improves when you point your toes down. Limited "up" motion
of your ankle. Your doctor may order imaging tests to help make sure your heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis and not another problem. X-rays provide clear images of bones. They are useful in
ruling out other causes of heel pain, such as fractures or arthritis. Heel spurs can be seen on an x-ray. Other imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are not
routinely used to diagnose plantar fasciitis. They are rarely ordered. An MRI scan may be used if the heel pain is not relieved by initial treatment methods.
Non Surgical Treatment
Night splints usually are designed to keep a person's ankle in a neutral position overnight. Most individuals naturally sleep with the feet plantar-flexed, a position that causes the plantar fascia
to be in a foreshortened position. A night dorsiflexion splint allows passive stretching of the calf and the plantar fascia during sleep. Theoretically, it also allows any healing to take place while
the plantar fascia is in an elongated position, thus creating less tension with the first step in the morning. A night splint can be molded from plaster or fiberglass casting material or may be a
prefabricated, commercially produced plastic brace. Several studies have shown that use of night splints has resulted in improvement in approximately 80 percent of patients using night splints. Other
studies found that night splints were especially useful in individuals who had symptoms of plantar fasciitis that had been present for more than 12 months. Night splints were cited as the best
treatment by approximately one third of the patients with plantar fasciitis who tried them. Disadvantages of night splints include mild discomfort, which may interfere with the patient's or a bed
partner's ability to sleep.
Surgery is rarely used in the treatment of plantar fasciitis. However it may be recommended when conservative treatment has been tried for several months but does not bring adequate relief of
symptoms. Surgery usually involves the partial release of the plantar fascia from the heel bone. In approximately 75% of cases symptoms are fully resolved within six months. In a small percentage of
cases, symptoms may take up to 12 months to fully resolve.