We know heel pain. Unfortunately, too many people know heel pain directly and on a daily basis, too. Among the most common causes of painful heels is plantar fasciitis, but conservative treatments often lead to effective relief from it!
Morning Dread – Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
For many people, the problems of plantar fasciitis start right when they get out of bed.
As soon as you stand in the morning—or after a long period of inactivity—you will have a sharp, stabbing kind of pain upon the bottom of the foot, close to the heel. It can be enough to make one reluctant to get moving!
The first few steps once the pain hits tend to be the worst, but usually starts to recede after some additional time moving around.
Pain can also strike worst after a long period of standing, or after exercise (but usually not so much during it).
What’s Going On?
All the trouble of plantar fasciitis stems from trouble with a band of thick tissue along the underside of the foot.
The plantar fascia is a stalwart part of the foot, working hard to support the arch and absorb the large forces we place on our feet all the time.
While the plantar fascia is strong and flexible to do its job, everything has a limit. If stress and forces on it become too great, or it must endure too much repetitive stretching over a period of time, tiny tears can begin to develop. This causes inflammation, which causes pain.
We see a great variety of patients suffering from plantar fasciitis, but there are certain factors that can increase your likelihood of developing it:
- A Tight Achilles Tendon – Part of the plantar fascia wraps around the back of the heel bone and connects to the Achilles tendon. If you have a contracted Achilles tendon (a condition also known as “equinus”), it can ramp up the strain the plantar fascia must endure. Studies have found that 83% of plantar fasciitis patients have equinus as well.
- High-Impact Exercise – Heavy engagement in activities that place a lot of impact forces on the feet, such as running and dance, can increase the repetitive strain on the plantar fascia.
- Jobs that Require Lots of Standing – Jobs such as retail, teaching, and factory work can often demand one to stay on their feet for long periods, making the plantar fascia endure that force and become strained.
- Foot Structure – Having an abnormal foot structure, such as high arches or flat feet, can cause an imbalance in the way weight is distributed over the foot, leading to excess force on the plantar fascia.
What Can Be Done About Plantar Fasciitis?
Although plantar fasciitis is a problem that affects millions of Americans, conservative treatment for it is effective in more than 95 percent of cases.
Plantar fasciitis treatment starts with a proper diagnosis, which you can be assured of receiving at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute! We will review your clinical history and provide a thorough physical examination. An x-ray or diagnostic ultrasound may also be able to rule out other causes of heel pain such as a stress fracture or cyst, or to get a clearer look at the condition of the plantar fascia itself.
When developing a treatment plan, it is important not only to address the symptoms making your heels miserable, but the sources of extra stress and strain on the plantar fascia as well. Treating the symptoms only goes so far if the source of the problem remains at large!
Conservative, non-surgical treatments will often be employed first for plantar fasciitis treatment, and tend to include:
- Decreasing Inflammation through the use of ice, topical creams, steroid injections, and/or anti-inflammatory medications.
- Increasing Flexibility through the use of stretching and physical therapy, often with a focus on the Achilles tendon.
- Building Arch Support through the use of custom orthotics, pre-fabricated inserts, support braces, and/or strapping and taping of the arch.
In some cases, more advanced treatments for pain and inflammation might be considered, such as extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections, or stem cell injections. These can have very positive effects on recovery, but are often not necessary and often not covered by insurance.
The need for surgical intervention for plantar fasciitis is rare, and will only be considered if other forms of treatment don’t prove effective.
The specific type of surgery performed may depend on the individual case, but typically involves a release of the plantar fascia. Drs. McSpadden and Sharkey employ a minimally-invasive procedure for this type of surgery that can reduce recovery times compared to more standard surgeries.
The Help You Need for All Forms of Heel Pain
Whether the source of your heel pain is plantar fasciitis or another condition, the worst step you can take is none at all! Finding the right diagnosis and treatment for heel pain can help keep more chronic problems from happening in the future.
Our offices in Cedar Park and Round Rock are ready to make an appointment with you. Call us at (512) 593-2949 or fill out our online contact form to reach us!