Some General Information on Plantar Fasciitis

The information presented below is just that – information.  It is not intended as medical advice.  If you think you have plantar fasciitis and have not been able to resolve the symptoms on your own – consult with your doctor for proper treatment!

A couple of my family members have been having trouble with plantar fasciitis lately, and after sharing some information with them, I thought I would share that information here as well.  I’m seeing a lot of plantar fasciitis in the office lately, particularly since the weather is so warm and a lot of us are out there taking advantage of it, running and hiking more than we usually would at this time of year.

The plantar fascia is a ligament on the bottom of the foot, extending from the heel to the front of the foot and supporting the arch.  Plantar fasciitis occurs when this structure becomes inflamed.  This can happen for a number of reasons, including overuse, tight calf muscles, or shortly after beginning a new activity.  It is not caused by heel spurs – many people have bones spurs in their heels, but few of them have plantar fasciitis!  Your doctor usually doesn’t need an x-ray to diagnose plantar fasciitis, though it is sometimes useful to help rule out other conditions such as stress fractures.

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain – particularly tenderness at the front of the heel.  Many times there is immediate pain with the first step when you get out of bed in the morning, but some people may have worse symptoms later in the day, when they’ve been on their feet for a while, and the pain can’t always be localized to just the front of the heel.  If it’s bad, it may not feel that specific.

Initial treatment generally includes a mild reduction in activity – particularly impact activity such as running and jumping – while continuing to engage in light activity to maintain fitness.  This is combined with a program of stretching and strengthening, ice massage, arch supports, and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or Aleve (if well tolerated).  Many times, a brief reduction in activity along with a strong focus on stretching, icing, massage, and proper arch support is all that’s needed.  For tougher cases, there are other options including night splints, PT (physical therapy), and cortisone injection, among others.  Plantar fasciitis can usually be fully resolved without resorting to surgery.