Following a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and visiting your doctor periodically are all key tasks to live a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, certain conditions may still arise that can affect your mobility and level of comfort. While surprising to learn, an estimated 10 percent of the population in the United States suffer with heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain that mostly affects runners. However, the condition can affect anyone, causing pain and reducing your ability to walk. Using this guide, you will have a better understanding of plantar fasciitis and learn how to treat this condition.
Plantar Fasciitis Explained
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue on the bottom of your foot. This tissue connects your heel bone to your toes. It also supports the arch of your foot.
If you strain the plantar fascia, it will become weak, swollen, and inflamed. This inflammation will cause pain and discomfort in your foot when you stand and walk.
If you experience the following symptoms, you most likely have plantar fasciitis:
- Pain in the foot
- Stiffness in the toes and bottom of foot
- Pain that occurs after standing for a long period of time
- Pain that increases while climbing stairs or standing on toes
Visiting a podiatrist is important for diagnosing plantar fasciitis. In most cases, a physical examination of the feet will be sufficient for determining if you have plantar fasciitis. If you are experiencing severe tenderness and pain, your doctor may suggest an MRI or X-ray to make sure you do not have a pinched nerve or fracture.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
To decrease swelling and inflammation, your doctor will suggest taking ibuprofen each day. Steroid shots can also relieve pain. Unfortunately, multiple shots are not recommended, since the injections can weaken the plantar fascia further, increasing pain and limiting mobility.
Exercise can also help reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. Your podiatrist may suggest working with a physical therapist to improve your mobility while decreasing pain. Physical therapists will walk you through a series of stretches to strengthen the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon. In addition, exercises to strengthen your lower legs will also be recommended.
Podiatrists also prescribe orthotics to reduce the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. To improve your mobility and reduce your pain, consider the following inserts for your shoe:
- Arch Supports – Placed inside the shoe, these inserts support the natural arch of the foot.
- Insoles – Available in foam, gel, or plastic, insoles are slipped into the shoe to support the entire foot.
- Heel Liners – Also known as heel pads or heel cups, heel liners cushion the heel.
- Cushions – If your shoe rubs against your heel or toes, it can weaken the plantar fascia further. To reduce stress on your heel and toes, place a foot cushion inside your shoe.
Your podiatrist can prescribe customized orthotics to improve your ability to walk in a pain-free manner.
Wearing a night splint is also an effective option for treating your plantar fasciitis. Worn at night while sleeping, the splint holds the foot in a 90-degree position, which stretches the fascia. This position reduces the pain you feel in the morning when taking that first step. The position also stretches the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
The stretching provided by the night splint reduces the pain felt in the morning when taking that first step. However, it also strengthens the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the foot. This prevents further damage from the plantar fasciitis.
The split looks and feels similar to a boot, so sleeping with the night splint can be uncomfortable. Fortunately, the reduction in pain and improvement in your mobility make the adjustment worthwhile.
Plantar fasciitis is not a life-threatening condition, but it can reduce your quality of life. With this guide and the help of your podiatrist, you will be able to understand and treat your plantar fasciitis. For more information, contact a local foot clinic like Camden County Foot & Ankle Center.