Is Heel Pain Messing With Your Movement?

Going out for a jog or a brisk walk is a great way to stay in shape. But if foot pain places a pause on any fitness goals, the issue could be plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is the fibrous tissue at the bottom of the foot that connects the heel to the toes. The tissue also supports the foot’s arch and acts as a shock absorber while walking, running, and jumping. Plantar fasciitis causes chronic heel pain due to inflammation of the tissue and may require surgery.

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What’s behind that foot pain?

Plantar fasciitis affects 1 in every 10 persons. However, the condition is more common in people, particularly women, between the ages of 40-60. Most happen through repetitive motion, especially in long-distance runners. Heels can get added stress from weight gain, often during pregnancy. Wearing poor shoes or overusing the foot without a proper warmup can cause inflammation and pain. Doctors will treat the condition using non-surgical methods. However, in extreme cases, plantar fascia release is warranted.

A much-needed plantar fascia release

Plantar fascia release, also known as plantar fasciotomy, is the most common surgical procedure for plantar fasciitis. The surgery is best for patients who have tried non-surgical treatment methods for 6-12 months without relief. The surgeon will access the tissue using arthroscopy. Next, small incisions on either side of the heel help to access the fascia. The doctor releases tension by detaching the tissue from the heel bone. The connective tissue grows back, lengthening the fascia, which eventually restores pain-free movement in the foot.

Removing unwanted bone spurs

Sometimes the friction and constant inflammation can cause bone spurs. Spurs are protruding calcium buildup on the underside of the heel bone. Bone spurs are not usually the cause of discomfort. However, if the protrusion is large enough, the surgeon will use a small tool to shave off the spur. Once the fascia and bone spurs are removed, the surgeon closes the incisions. Plantar fascia release is often an outpatient procedure, but the surgery is just part of the repair and recovery process.

It’s time for recovery!

Without surgery, plantar fasciitis can take between 6-18 months to heal fully. However, with surgery, recovery is much faster. Patients usually take around 6-12 weeks after surgery to regain basic functionality. Physical therapy will help with improving the strength and flexibility for the first 4 weeks. Minimally invasive surgery speeds up this timeline significantly. Unfortunately, the patient will be unable to do any strenuous activities, like running or jumping, during this time.

Risks during recovery

Recovery can take longer if the patient resumes intense activities too quickly or wears incorrect shoes during rehabilitation. Although the surgery has a high success rate, there are some risks. In rare cases, patients may have a weakened arch, nerve damage, delayed healing, or a possible infection. Lifestyle changes can speed up recovery and create long-term relief. Changes include possible weight loss, changes in exercise routines, and making ergonomic adjustments at work.

Don’t take your heel for granted

Patients with plantar fasciitis tend to ignore the pain until the discomfort becomes unbearable. If there is chronic pain, use rest and other non-surgical treatment options immediately. If these fail, plantar fascia release is the most common surgical approach for addressing plantar fasciitis. Recovery can take up to 3 months, but success increases with proper lifestyle changes. Speak with a healthcare provider to explore all treatment options.