What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Also called policeman’s heel, plantar fasciitis is a medical condition that causes shooting pain in the foot. The condition affects the plantar fascia, a thick ligature in the foot. This tissue band acts as a bridge between the front and back of the foot. Inflammation, tension, or tears on the plantar fascia can lead to plantar fasciitis.

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Factors that lead to plantar fasciitis

One of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis is too much weight or pressure on the foot. People who are obese are more prone to the condition. High-impact activities like dancing and running are also potential risk factors. Standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces is another cause of this type of foot pain. Patients with naturally flat feet or high arches may also develop the condition. Plantar fasciitis tends to affect middle-aged people the most.

Pain in the foot

Individuals should contact a doctor if any ongoing pain is experienced in the heel of the foot. Plantar fasciitis tends to strike in the morning when people wake up and start walking. However, individuals can also experience shooting pain when standing for a long time or when walking after sitting for extended periods.

The diagnostic process

Doctors conduct a series of tests, including a physical examination and imaging tests, to diagnose plantar fasciitis. The healthcare provider usually starts by ordering an x-ray to examine the bones around the foot. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound may also be used in special cases. Ultimately, the doctor will examine the patient to rule out other conditions before officially diagnosing plantar fasciitis.

Treatment options

Doctors can treat plantar fasciitis by implementing some non-invasive treatment options. Patients can modify physical activity and incorporate more rest between exercises. A physical therapist may work with the patient to teach stretching exercises that help relieve foot pain and strain. Another intervention is using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), which can reduce inflammation and pain. Patients may even opt for steroid injections which are given periodically to reduce inflammation of the plantar fascia.

Surgical remedies for plantar fasciitis

In extreme cases, patients may need surgery to correct plantar fasciitis. This surgery is called gastrocnemius recession and focuses on a muscle in the calf area named the gastrocnemius. During this surgery, doctors make an incision inside the leg near the calf muscle. Next, doctors use an instrument to locate a layer of fibrous tissue called the fascia. Doctors slice through the fascia to release tension and allow the foot to move more freely. Surgeons may also cut through the fascia of the soleus muscle to provide extra relief. Finally, surgeons stitch the incisions together and apply bandages.

The recovery process

Patients typically need a walking boot or split post-surgery. Patients are expected to remain in recovery for 8 weeks. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can help relieve pain during this time. Working with a physical therapist to regain full use of the leg and foot is advised.

Pain-free future

People with chronic foot pain, especially while walking or standing, should always consult a doctor for evaluation. If a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is made, the doctor can help create an effective treatment plan. With the right approach, the patient can return to walking pain-free again sooner rather than later.