What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot connecting the heel bone to your toes. This ligament supports the arch of your foot and helps the foot flex and move normally. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that is strongly associated with a stabbing pain in the heel, something that usually occurs with your first few steps in the morning before receding across the day. The pain can return with long periods of standing. It is not entirely clear what causes plantar fasciitis, although there are some known factors that will increase your risk:
- Flat feet – This can place more stress on the plantar fascia and cause irritation.
- Tight calves causing increased tension on your heel.
- Overuse – From jobs that require many hours standing or walking on hard surfaces, or from sports that stress the heel.
- Age – More prevalent in people over 40.
- Weight – Obesity can add pressure to the ligament.
How are they treated?
Plantar fasciitis is generally treated using conservative options that focus on stretching the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, to support the foot shape and reduce tension. In combination with regular stretching exercises, icing and anti-inflammatory medication can also help manage the pain. Shoes can be modified with orthotics to cushion the heel, and supplemented with arch support to maintain the structure.
Avoid activities that put extra pressure on the heel such as running or dance, using night splints will help continue to stretch the ligament while you sleep. If you continue to experience ongoing pain that limits your daily activities, your doctor may suggest plantar fascia surgery (plantar fasciotomy) to detach the ligament from your heel bone, as a way to release tension and improve mobility.
How long do they last?
Plantar fasciitis can last anything from a few days up to one year and beyond, but this can be significantly reduced with the use of home treatments. Ignoring the symptoms will do greater damage to the ligament, and result in a longer recovery period. Adjusting your lifestyle, wearing supportive shoes and maintaining a healthy bodyweight will all help reduce the recovery time.
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