Plantar Fasciitis, Symptoms and Causes

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a long, tough ligament beneath the skin on the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. The plantar fascia also supports the arch of your foot. The ligament is a tough, fibrous band of tissue designed to absorb the daily stresses and strains you place on your feet. When your foot experiences too much pressure, the tissues of the plantar fascia can become damaged or torn, causing plantar fasciitis.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  (AAOS), plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of pain on the bottom of your heel. Active men ages 40- to 70 are most often affected than any other group. Approximately two-2 million patients are treated for plantar fasciitis every year.

Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs

Plantar fasciitis is commonly thought to be caused by a heel spur (a hook of bone that forms on the bone at the back of the foot), but research has proven that to be untrue. The AAOS reports that one out of 10 people has heel spurs, but only 1 out of 20 people (5%) with heel spurs has foot pain. Because the spur is not the cause, the painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis pain can be treated without removing the spur. 

The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Foot and Ankle Services in New York diagnoses and treats symptoms of plantar fasciitis as well as a broad range of foot and ankle conditions that can occur at any stage of life.

Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
You may experience one or more of the following common symptoms of plantar fasciitis:

  • Pain and stiffness in the bottom of your heel – the  most common symptom
  • Heel pain may be dull or sharp
  • Bottom of your foot may ache or burn

The pain of plantar fasciitis usually worsens at these times:

  • In the morning when you get out of bed and take your first steps
  • After standing of sitting
  • Climbing stairs
  • After intense physical activity

Plantar Fasciitis Causes
According to the National Institutes of Health, risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Foot arch problems: both flat feet (the lack of an arch when standing) and high arches (an arch that is raised more than normal)
  • Obesity or sudden weight gain
  • Long-distance running, especially downhill or on uneven surfaces
  • Occupations that require excessive standing or walking
  • Tight Achilles tendon (the tendon that connects the calf muscles to your heel)
  • Shoes with poor arch support or soft soles

Beginning a new exercise plan too quickly, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) warns, can result in plantar fasciitis as well as stress fractures and ruptured tendons. The Society recommends that you increase your distance and speed gradually when walking or running (about a 10% increase), wear proper footware footwear and stretch gently to warm up and to cool down.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment
More than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve within 10 months of starting simple non-surgical treatment methods, such as rest, icing, anti-inflammatory medicines, a night splint and  and specific plantar fasciitis exercises. A small percentage of patients may need plantar fascia release surgery or shockwave therapy. For more information, visit Plantar Fasciitis Treatments.

Rehabilitation Services
The Rehabilitation Network of the North Shore-LIJ Health System is dedicated to providing you and your family with result-oriented, comprehensive rehabilitation services. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find relief from pain and get moving again after an accident, illness, injury or surgery. We’re your partner in a safe, healthy, more rapid recovery.

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