Chronically painful feet are hard to ignore and sometimes even harder to return to a pain-free state. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, and occurs in all types of individuals. Although both men and women can be affected with plantar fasciitis, the condition typically strikes active men between the ages of 40 and 70.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia ligament that runs along the arch of your foot becomes inflamed. This ligament is attached to the bottom of your heel bone, and this is why the pain is often felt in this area, usually at the back of the arch and right in front of the heel. In about 50% of people with this condition, there is also a heel spur.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by such factors as: too much standing, unpadded shoes on hard ground, unsupportive shoes, repetitive stress, diet low in vitamin C, a change or increase in activities, being overweight, age-related shrinkage of the heel fat pad of the heel, or an injury. People who are pregnant, diabetic, flat footed or have a high arch are also more likely to be affected with plantar fasciitis.
Home care can be very effective for plantar fasciitis. The most successful home treatments include decreasing or changing activities, losing weight, better fitting shoes (with an arch support and raised heel), shoe inserts that have good arch support, splinting at night, heel pads (1/2" or more when compressed), and stretching.
There are a few simple exercises and stretches that can help. Gentle stretching of the calves can help. To do this, stand with the toes on the step and the heels off the back. Carefully lower the heels down below the level of the step until you feel a stretch. Spell out the alphabet with your large toe, repeating 3 times for each foot. Scrunch up a towel or pick up a pen with all the toes, repeat 3 times. These are good exercises to strengthen the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia can be stretched by rolling the foot over a frozen water bottle for 10 minutes per day.
A night splint is a splint is worn overnight. It works by preventing the tissues from tightening up during long hours of inactivity. It may be uncomfortable to wear at first, but you can gradually increase the wearing time each night. Wearing a night splint is more effective than stretches alone.
If you do not make progress on your own, it is important to seek help. Chiropractors, physical therapists, and acupuncturists have a good track record for helping patients recover from this painful condition.
For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at Haydenhealth@gmail.com.