Your Health Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Foot Patrol: What You Should Know About Plantar Fasciitis

For some, plantar fasciitis may sound like the scientific name for an exotic type of flora. But for others, it’s synonymous with debilitating – and sometimes crippling – pain that can seriously impact your quality of life. If you’ve ever stepped out of bed in the morning and felt a piercing pain in the bottom of your foot, you know what it feels like to have plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of your foot. The tissue, called the plantar fascia, connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch in your foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this band of tissue is overstretched or overused. While it’s a relatively common ailment for long-distance runners and athletes, it can affect anyone.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is commonly linked to the following:

  • Foot arch problems (including flat feet and high arches)
  • Long-distance running, especially running downhill or on uneven surfaces
  • Sudden weight gain or obesity
  • A tight Achilles tendon
  • Wearing shoes with poor arch support or soft soles

Although plantar fasciitis affects men and women, it’s most common in men ages 40 to 70 and is one of the most common orthopedic foot complaints.

Proven Treatments

There are many treatments for plantar fasciitis, but because it’s an overuse injury, it has a high rate of recurrence. Once the plantar fascia is damaged, it’s extremely difficult to bring it back to pre-injury health solely through the use of medicine or therapy. As is the case with most overuse injuries, the greatest healer is time and rest. However, there are methods your doctor can use to help alleviate the pain.

Mia Griggs, MD, of Sports Medicine & Injury Care, said she recommends ice, stretches and anti-inflammatories as a first step toward reducing pain from plantar fasciitis. “If someone doesn’t improve with those therapies, I usually recommend they try a cushioning heel support and use of a night splint to minimize pain and prevent further damage,” she said.

Other proven treatments for plantar fasciitis include:

  • exercises
  • massage techniques
  • walking boot
  • cortisone injections

If none of these conventional treatments help, your physician may recommend shockwave therapy to stimulate new tissue growth or, very rarely, surgery.

New Developments

While steroid treatments are often used to treat plantar fasciitis (a corticosteroid is injected into the foot to temporarily relieve pain), there is mounting evidence that steroid injections can damage the heel pad or plantar fascia. However, numerous recent studies suggest injecting botulinum toxin A – Botox – directly into the foot can lead to a faster and more complete recovery. More research is being conducted on this treatment.

If you notice pain in your foot when walking or running, talk to your doctor. Plantar fasciitis can be immensely painful when left untreated. The best way to protect yourself against debilitating pain is to work with your doctor to treat the problem before it gets worse.

After working in residency education and as team physician for the Texas Longhorns, Dr. Griggs returned to NC to join Cabarrus Family Medicine in 2009. Dr. Griggs, is a physician specializing in Sports Medicine at Atrium Health's Cabarrus Family Medicine - Prosperity Crossing.