Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation caused by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue which runs along the bottom surface of the foot,
attaching at the bottom of the heel bone and extending to the forefoot. When the plantar fascia is excessively stretched, this can cause plantar fasciitis, which can also lead to heel pain, arch
pain, and heel spurs.
Excessive stretching of the plantar fascia can result in microtrauma of this structure either along its course or where it inserts onto the medial calcaneal tuberosity. This microtrauma, if
repetitive, can result in chronic degeneration of the plantar fascia fibers. The loading of the degenerative and healing tissue at the plantar fascia may cause significant plantar pain, particularly
with the first few steps after sleep or other periods of inactivity. The term fasciitis may, in fact, be something of a misnomer, because the disease is actually a degenerative process that occurs
with or without inflammatory changes, which may include fibroblastic proliferation. This has been proven from biopsies of fascia from people undergoing surgery for plantar fascia release.
Patients experience intense sharp pain with the first few steps in the morning or following long periods of having no weight on the foot. The pain can also be aggravated by prolonged standing or
sitting. The pain is usually experienced on the plantar surface of the foot at the anterior aspect of the heel where the plantar fascia ligament inserts into the calcaneus. It may radiate proximally
in severe cases. Some patients may limp or prefer to walk on their toes. Alternative causes of heel pain include fat pad atrophy, plantar warts and foreign body.
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Occasionally, further investigations such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI
may be required to assist with diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.
Non Surgical Treatment
First check your shoes for too much midfoot flexibility and check your training for changes. A detailed evaluation of changes in your training is necessary. You should start with what is called
"relative rest" which means a decrease in workout intensity, duration of session and decrease in the number of sessions per week. The most important part of self treatment for this condition is being
sure that your shoes offer sufficient stability and are optimal in controlling the forces that contribute to plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Check your running shoes to make sure that they are not
excessively worn. They should bend only at the ball of the foot, where your toes attach to the foot. This is vital! Avoid any shoe that bends in the center of the arch or behind the ball of the foot.
It offers insufficient support and will stress your plantar fascia. The human foot was not designed to bend here and neither should a shoe be designed to do this. You should also be doing gentle calf
stretching exercises. This will reduce stress on the plantar fascia in two ways. The first manner in which a relaxation of the tension in the calf muscles can help heel pain is that it will reduce
the direct pull backwards on the heel bone (calcaneus). The second reason is a little bit more complicated, but essentially it is that a tight achilles tendon and calf muscles causes the rearfoot to
move in a manner that causes over pronation as your leg and body move forward over your foot. So go ahead and gently stretch the calf muscle by doing the runner's wall leaning stretch. To strengthen
the muscles in your arch toe curls or "doming" can be done. Toe curls may be done by placing a towel on a kitchen floor and then curling your toes to pull the towel towards you. This exercise may
also be done without the towel against the resistance of the floor.
In very rare cases plantar fascia surgery is suggested, as a last resort. In this case the surgeon makes an incision into the ligament, partially cutting the plantar fascia to release it. If a heel
spur is present, the surgeon will remove it. Plantar Fasciitis surgery should always be considered the last resort when all the conventional treatment methods have failed to succeed. Endoscopic
plantar fasciotomy (EPF) is a form of surgery whereby two incisions are made around the heel and the ligament is being detached from the heel bone allowing the new ligament to develop in the same
place. In some cases the surgeon may decide to remove the heel spur itself, if present. Just like any type of surgery, Plantar Fascia surgery comes with certain risks and side effects. For example,
the arch of the foot may drop and become weak. Wearing an arch support after surgery is therefore recommended. Heel spur surgeries may also do some damage to veins and arteries of your foot that
allow blood supply in the area. This will increase the time of recovery.
Make sure you wear appropriate supportive shoes. Don't over-train in sports. Make sure you warm up, cool down and undertake an exercise regime that helps maintain flexibility. Manage your weight,
obesity is a factor in causing plantar fasciitis. Avoid walking and running on hard surfaces if you are prone to pain. You should follow the recognized management protocol - RICED-rest, ice,
compression, elevation and diagnosis. Rest, keep off the injured ankle as much as possible. Ice, applied for 20 minutes at a time every hour as long as swelling persists. Compression, support the
ankle and foot with a firmly (not tightly) wrapped elastic bandage. Elevation, keep foot above heart level to minimize bruising and swelling. Diagnosis, Consult a medical professional (such as a
Podiatrist or doctor) especially if you are worried about the injury, or if the pain or swelling gets worse. If the pain or swelling has not gone down significantly within 48 hours, also seek
treatment. An accurate diagnosis is essential for proper rehabilitation of moderate to severe injuries.