Plantar Fasciitis – What Causes it and How to Treat it?

Plantar Fasciitis – What Causes it and How to Treat it?

A condition that affects middle-aged and older people, Plantar Fasciitis also occurs in around eight percent of runners. This is according to a recent study published last year in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In this article, we will outline what Plantar Fasciitis is and what causes it. We'll then talk about why walking with heel pain isn't necessarily a bad thing before discussing the difference between Heel Spur and Plantar Fasciitis. We will end with a discussion on how to treat the condition using non-surgical means you can do at home.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis (pronounced PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) is when there is discomfort (pain) in the tissue that connects the bone of the heel to an individual's toes. That band of tissue on the base of the foot is known as the plantar fascia, hence where the condition gets its name. Another role of the plantar fasciitis is to support the foot's arch. It also works as a shock absorber, taking the impact for the foot when we are walking, running, and dancing, for example. 

The pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis occurs at the bottom of the foot at the heel. It is of the stabbing variety (rather than a dull ache). It is usually worse on wakening and reduces as the day goes on. But it can recur after sitting for a long time or standing in one spot. It can also get worse following a run or prolonged period of walking.

The fascia is shaped like a bowstring, and when it is stressed, small tears can occur in the tissue. If this happens a lot, the tissue can become inflamed, causing pain when walking and moving around.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis tends to occur more often in people aged 40 to 60. It is also more likely in overweight individuals since they tend to have a heavier gait.

But the condition can also prove a problem for athletes, especially runners (particularly those who like to run long distances). That is due to the repeated pounding of the feet on the ground. Other sporting activities that can exacerbate the condition include ballet and aerobics, where the heel is continually stressed. 

Certain professions can also cause individuals to suffer from the condition. These include jobs that involve standing for hours on end, such as pharmacists, nurses, hairdressing, teaching, or working at a factory production line. 

Then there are those people who get foot pain due to the mechanics of their feet ie, if they have flat feet, a high arch or hyperpronation (where the foot rolls too much at the ankle when walking).


Why Walking with Heel Pain can be Both Good and Bad

Walking with heel pain isn't a great idea, but it can be beneficial. That's because not walking or doing any exercise can result in you becoming overweight. And extra weight puts stress on the plantar fascia (stress on the heel being the culprit in the first place). It can be possible to lessen the pain when you walk by wearing shoes that support the heel or shoes with an orthotic insert.

Stretching and warming up the feet beforehand can also help alleviate the condition. Afterward, stretching and applying ice will make your feet less prone to pain.

You shouldn't walk with sore heels if the pain is too bad. That is the time to rest up. It may be that you only need to lie down for half an hour twice a day and avoid high-impact sports, running, and dancing until the pain resolves itself. If not, going to a doctor to get the pain diagnosed and treated is also an option worth considering.

Heel Spur and Plantar Fasciitis, what's the Difference?

Heel spurs are often misdiagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis and vice versa. That's because the location of pain for both is very similar, and so is the form of stabbing pain. The treatment for both is much the same and includes using arch support insoles.

However, a heel spur is a calcium deposit on the back of the heel bone, while plantar fasciitis is when the plantar fascia (band of foot tissue) becomes inflamed. 

A heel spur is also the result of stress or trauma, this time to the heel itself (rather than the connecting tissue). A heel spur can be the result of Plantar Fasciitis, meaning it's not unusual to have both a heel spur and Plantar Fasciitis simultaneously. 

In fact, it's very common and rarer to find someone with Plantar Fasciitis who doesn't have a heel spur. A heel spur on its own would be diagnosed if the individual only had heel pain (rather than in both the arch and heel, which is the situation with Plantar Fasciitis).

How to Cure Plantar Fasciitis

The good news is that there are several quick, non-surgical and effective treatments. Most of which you can do at home to help resolve the foot pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis. These aren't expensive to carry out, and some use items you probably already have lying around at home:

  • For temporary pain relief, use an ice pack
  • Practice dry cupping to improve blood flow to the area
  • Use a tennis ball to massage your foot 
  • Do some stretching exercises to improve flexibility
  • Try using toe separators to stretch your tendons
  • Roll a water bottle under your foot from heel to toe
  • Stretch your feet by picking up a facecloth with your toes
  • Use sock splints when sleeping and daily orthotic inserts
  • Use TENS therapy to reduce inflammation and stiffness

These exercises are easy to carry out and will bring pain relief to most sufferers of the condition. Better still, studies have shown that nine out of ten people with Plantar Fasciitis will feel an improvement in around ten months. That is if they apply some form of podiatrist approved non-surgical treatments, such as PodiMe made by Podiatrist.