The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along the sole from the heel to the ball of the foot. One of its main roles is to keep the bones and joints in position. Bruising or
overstretching this ligament can cause inflammation and heel pain. A common cause is flat feet, because the ligament is forced to overstretch as the foot spreads out and the arch flattens. The pain
may be worse first thing in the morning or after rest. In many cases, plantar fasciitis is associated with heel spur. The plantar fascia tears and bleeds at the heel and, over time, these injuries
calcify and form a bony growth.
Plantar fasciitis can be confused with a condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome. In tarsal tunnel syndrome, an important nerve in the foot, the tibial nerve, is trapped and pinched as it passes
through the tarsal tunnel, a condition analogous to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. This may cause symptoms similar to the pain of a plantar fasciitis. There are also other less common problems
such as nerve entrapments, stress fractures, and fat pad necrosis, all of which can cause foot pain. Finally, several rheumatologic conditions can cause heel pain. These syndromes such as Reiter's
syndrome and ankylosing spondylitis can cause heel pain similar to plantar fasciitis. If your symptoms are not typical for plantar fasciitis, or if your symptoms do not resolve with treatment, your
doctor will consider these possible diagnoses.
A very common complaint of plantar fasciitis is pain in the bottom of the heel. Plantar fasciitis is usually worse in the morning and may improve throughout the day. By the end of the day the pain
may be replaced by a dull aching that improves with rest. Most people suffering from plantar fasciitis also complain of increased heel pain after walking for a long period of time.
If you see a doctor for heel pain, he or she will first ask questions about where you feel the pain. If plantar fasciitis is suspected, the doctor will ask about what activities you've been doing
that might be putting you at risk. The doctor will also examine your foot by pressing on it or asking you to flex it to see if that makes the pain worse. If something else might be causing the pain,
like a heel spur or a bone fracture, the doctor may order an X-ray to take a look at the bones of your feet. In rare cases, if heel pain doesn't respond to regular treatments, the doctor also might
order an MRI scan of your foot. The good news about plantar fasciitis is that it usually goes away after a few months if you do a few simple things like stretching exercises and cutting back on
activities that might have caused the problem. Taking over-the-counter medicines can help with pain. It's rare that people need surgery for plantar fasciitis. Doctors only do surgery as a last resort
if nothing else eases the pain.
Non Surgical Treatment
More than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve within 10 months of starting simple treatment methods. Rest. Decreasing or even stopping the activities that make the pain worse is the
first step in reducing the pain. You may need to stop athletic activities where your feet pound on hard surfaces (for example, running or step aerobics). Ice. Rolling your foot over a cold water
bottle or ice for 20 minutes is effective. This can be done 3 to 4 times a day. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen reduce pain and inflammation. Using the
medication for more than 1 month should be reviewed with your primary care doctor. Exercise. Plantar fasciitis is aggravated by tight muscles in your feet and calves. Stretching your calves and
plantar fascia is the most effective way to relieve the pain that comes with this condition. Cortisone injections. Cortisone, a type of steroid, is a powerful anti-inflammatory medication. It can be
injected into the plantar fascia to reduce inflammation and pain. Your doctor may limit your injections. Multiple steroid injections can cause the plantar fascia to rupture (tear), which can lead to
a flat foot and chronic pain. Soft heel pads can provide extra support. Supportive shoes and orthotics. Shoes with thick soles and extra cushioning can reduce pain with standing and walking. As you
step and your heel strikes the ground, a significant amount of tension is placed on the fascia, which causes microtrauma (tiny tears in the tissue). A cushioned shoe or insert reduces this tension
and the microtrauma that occurs with every step. Soft silicone heel pads are inexpensive and work by elevating and cushioning your heel. Pre-made or custom orthotics (shoe inserts) are also helpful.
Night splints. Most people sleep with their feet pointed down. This relaxes the plantar fascia and is one of the reasons for morning heel pain. A night splint stretches the plantar fascia while you
sleep. Although it can be difficult to sleep with, a night splint is very effective and does not have to be used once the pain is gone. Physical therapy. Your doctor may suggest that you work with a
physical therapist on an exercise program that focuses on stretching your calf muscles and plantar fascia. In addition to exercises like the ones mentioned above, a physical therapy program may
involve specialized ice treatments, massage, and medication to decrease inflammation around the plantar fascia. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT). During this procedure, high-energy shockwave
impulses stimulate the healing process in damaged plantar fascia tissue. ESWT has not shown consistent results and, therefore, is not commonly performed. ESWT is noninvasive-it does not require a
surgical incision. Because of the minimal risk involved, ESWT is sometimes tried before surgery is considered.
If treatment hasn't worked and you still have painful symptoms after a year, your GP may refer you to either an orthopaedic surgeon, a surgeon who specialises in surgery that involves bones, muscles
and joints, a podiatric surgeon, a podiatrist who specialises in foot surgery. Surgery is sometimes recommended for professional athletes and other sportspeople whose heel pain is adversely affecting
their career. Plantar release surgery. Plantar release surgery is the most widely used type of surgery for heel pain. The surgeon will cut the fascia to release it from your heel bone and reduce the
tension in your plantar fascia. This should reduce any inflammation and relieve your painful symptoms. Surgery can be performed either as, open surgery, where the section of the plantar fascia is
released by making a cut into your heel, endoscopic or minimal incision surgery - where a smaller incision is made and special instruments are inserted through the incision to gain access to the
plantar fascia. Endoscopic or minimal incision surgery has a quicker recovery time, so you will be able to walk normally much sooner (almost immediately), compared with two to three weeks for open
surgery. A disadvantage of endoscopic surgery is that it requires both a specially trained surgical team and specialised equipment, so you may have to wait longer for treatment than if you were to
choose open surgery. Endoscopic surgery also carries a higher risk of damaging nearby nerves, which could result in symptoms such as numbness, tingling or some loss of movement in your foot. As with
all surgery, plantar release carries the risk of causing complications such as infection, nerve damage and a worsening of your symptoms after surgery (although this is rare). You should discuss the
advantages and disadvantages of both techniques with your surgical team. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (EST) is a fairly new type of non-invasive treatment. Non-invasive means it does not involve
making cuts into your body. EST involves using a device to deliver high-energy soundwaves into your heel. The soundwaves can sometimes cause pain, so a local anaesthetic may be used to numb your
heel. It is claimed that EST works in two ways. It is thought to, have a "numbing" effect on the nerves that transmit pain signals to your brain, help stimulate and speed up the healing process.
However, these claims have not yet been definitively proven. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance about the use of EST for treating plantar fasciitis. NICE
states there are no concerns over the safety of EST, but there are uncertainties about how effective the procedure is for treating heel pain. Some studies have reported that EST is more effective
than surgery and other non-surgical treatments, while other studies found the procedure to be no better than a placebo (sham treatment).