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causes of plantar fasciitis,, Plantar fasciitis heel pain, signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, pain in heels, plantar fasciitis symptoms, causes and treatment of plantar fasciitis

Severe pain in heels during the morning: do I have Plantar Fasciitis?

“I have a sharp pain underneath my feet and it is usually worse early mornings especially when I am pressed to use the bathroom. What could be the cause?” This is a common complaint received by physicians, today. The pain in heels could be due to a condition known as plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain.

According to a study, it is said that one in 10 people will experience plantar fasciitis symptoms in their lifetime. Its occurrences tend to be highest in middle-aged women who are obese as well as young male athletes, who put themselves through high levels of endurance.

What is the plantar fascia?

Plantar fasciitis heel pain occurs due to an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot. This thick, web-like ligament is called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia connects your heel bone to your toes. This ligament is kind of like a shock absorber, cushioning your heel from pain when you walk or run. It supports the arch of your foot. When it experiences inflammation, the result is plantar fasciitis. As you grow older and hit your 40s, or if you start gaining more weight, there’s more pressure placed on the plantar fascia, causing it to be at higher risk of plantar fasciitis.

Signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis

  • The clearest sign is that sharp pain you feel when putting pressure on your heel – it can be in the front or back of your heel. The pain is not always consistent and tends to come and go.
  • This pain is typically experienced first thing in the morning as you wake up, and put pressure on your heel while walking. It may subside in some time but can recur through the day when you stand for long periods.
  • It can also crop up after sitting for some time, especially if your job needs you to sit for a long period.

If you experience plantar fasciitis symptoms, it’s important not to ignore it as repeatedly putting pressure and not getting the medical care you need can lead to wear and tear of the ligament, aggravated pain and sometimes, even surgery.

Let’s delve into some of the common causes of plantar fasciitis

How is plantar fasciitis caused? 

The causes and treatment of plantar fasciitis depend on several factors such as your lifestyle, profession and daily habits. Several activities or factors can increase the risk of this condition.

  • Physical Activity: If you indulge in daily activities that put a lot of pressure on your heel and the tissue region, this can be a factor. This can include running marathons, dancing, fitness, running, and walking for extended periods.
  • Gait: Sometimes, the way you walk or run can be a factor. Unevenly putting continuous pressure on your heel is a bad idea. Be mindful of how you carry yourself, and course-correct by walking right, after consulting a physician.
  • Weight: As you put on more weight, the amount of pressure placed on your plantar fascia also goes up, and this can lead to inflammation of the ligament.
  • Occupation: Certain professions require that you stand a lot: teaching, being a cashier, hospitality jobs, airline crew, sanitation, industrial jobs. These can also lead to wear and tear of the plantar fascia.

How do I cure plantar fasciitis? 

There is no one specific plantar fasciitis cure as such. It is a mix of treatment and prevention approach.

When you experience continuous bouts of pain, get it examined early on. Your doctor might order an X-ray or ultrasound imaging. The idea is to rule out any other conditions, such as a tumor. Once identified as plantar fasciitis pain, your doctor may suggest applying ice packs to reduce the swelling, taking anti-inflammatory medications or certain injections, as well as medication to manage plantar fasciitis pain.

Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to help heal the swelling over a period of a few days.
“Doctor, when one has plantar fasciitis, does it matter if they rest their feet on the floor, stretched out, or elevated?” This is a common question asked by those recovering from plantar fasciitis. Yes, it is recommended that the patient keep the leg at an elevated level and not put pressure on the foot.

Read: 4 Types of foot pain one should not ignore

Will I need to get surgery for plantar fasciitis?

Severe plantar fasciitis symptoms such as a chronically inflamed ligament may require surgery–either an open one or an Endoscopic Plantar Fasciotomy (EPF). The recovery time for the formed is four to six weeks, while the latter is almost instant. Both are minor surgeries.

There are certain newer treatments also available, but it is best to get your physician’s opinion for the best diagnosis of your specific case. Post the surgery or reduction of the swelling, physical therapy may also be recommended.

Prevention is better than cure

To reduce risks of plantar fasciitis occurring again, taking a preventive approach can be the best policy. 

Weight management

Reducing your weight to the prescribed amount recommended for your height and age is a long-term but essential approach to ensuring there are no recurrences of plantar fasciitis pain. 

Avoid practices like crash dieting, and exercise routines that place pressure on your heel, and further aggravate it. The best approach is to consult a nutrition and fitness trainer, for a good weight loss regimen, with a sign-off from your physician 

Footwear

Another smart thing to do is to ensure your footwear is optimal, whether for walking or running. Using sneakers with soft, cushioned soles that reduce the pressure on your heels, and purchasing some custom orthotic shoe inserts can also be used to reduce the stress. 

Care when exercising

Avoid exercising on hard surfaces and ice your foot after every high-intensity workout session. Reduce the frequency of physical activities that involve a lot of pressure on your foot, such as jumping and running.

Listen to your body 

Plantar fasciitis is emerging as one of the top orthopaedic complaints in the world. In many ways, plantar fasciitis can be considered as a “lifestyle” condition that crops up due to poor fitness habits, as well as hazards of certain types of professions. 

The occurrence of plantar fasciitis symptoms, treatment, and prevention is in your hands provided you take care of yourself, and your body. However, if you do experience pain, remember that pain is always an indicator that your body is trying to tell you something. So be alert to it, and consult your doctor so that you can course-correct early on.

Read: From bunions to hammertoes : How to avoid the shoes that kill your feet

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Author: Dr Anuj Chawla
Dr. Anuj Chawla is a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon with over 15 years of experience across several reputed institutions across the globe. He specializes in foot and ankle disorders, sports injuries, and geriatric trauma.
 
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