It is not normal to feel pain in your heel when you first get out of bed in the morning or when you stand up after sitting at your desk all day. Even if the pain goes away gradually throughout the day, “first-step” pain is a symptom of a problem that will only get worse without treatment. The most common cause of heel pain is a condition called plantar fasciitis. Left untreated, it could force you to give up the active lifestyle you love.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
The plantar fascia is a tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs along the sole of your foot. It attaches the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. When the band loses elasticity with overuse or age, stress and pressure on the heel bone increase. This is why the most common symptom of an injured plantar fascia is pain in the heel. When you are resting your foot, such as at night or when sitting still, the band tends to tighten up, which explains the first-step pain symptom. As you move and loosen the foot up during the day, the pain eases up.
Plantar fasciitis can affect anyone—from high-level runners to couch potatoes. It is more common in women, possibly because of their shoe choices and the weight of pregnancies. A number of factors can contribute to the likelihood of developing this condition, including the following:
- A sudden increase in activity. If you have been off your feet recovering from an injury, you could develop plantar fasciitis when you start your exercise routine up again. Likewise, if you have been a fairly inactive person and you jump into a fitness program suddenly, you can put stress on the plantar fascia and pay the price.
- The anatomy of your foot. For some people, the structure and shape of their feet make it almost inevitable that they will develop this condition. If you have flat feet or the opposite—high arches—you are more likely to experience pain in the plantar fascia.
- Carrying extra body weight. Pregnant women and both men and women who are carrying extra pounds are more likely to develop fasciitis due to the increased pressure of added weight on their feet.
- Wearing the wrong shoes. Certain shoes, such as high heels or shoes that don’t adequately support your arch when you are running or walking, could contribute to strain on the plantar fascia.
- Running. Plantar fasciitis is common among runners because of the repeated impact on their feet caused by pounding the pavement.
- Age. Wear and tear of even normal activity over many years can cause plantar fasciitis, so it is common in people over the age of 50, especially if they have spent a lot of time on their feet.
Regardless of what caused your plantar fasciitis, there is an effective treatment to help relieve the pain.
Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
The early stages of plantar fasciitis can be treated at home with rest and stretching. However, the sooner you see a podiatrist for an effective intervention, the less likely you are to be sidelined by heel pain. Your foot specialist might recommend one or more of the following:
- Orthotics. A custom-made shoe insert can provide the support and cushioning the sole of your foot needs to protect the plantar fascia.
- Splints. A splint worn at night to keep the foot in a flexed position can prevent the plantar fascia from tightening up overnight.
- Physical therapy. A program of stretching and strengthening can improve range of motion, reduce pain, and help the fascia heal. A physical therapist might also provide massage to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Injection therapy. Cortisone injected into the plantar fascia tissue can reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
- Shockwave therapy. This non-invasive, cutting-edge treatment sends low-frequency shockwaves to the affected area to increase blood flow and oxygen to help the healing process.
- Surgery. Surgery is not usually necessary for plantar fasciitis, but in extreme cases, a surgeon might decide to relieve pressure on the plantar fascia by operating on the calf muscle or the plantar fascia itself.
Keep your treatment options open by seeing a podiatrist as soon as possible after developing chronic heel pain.
Discuss Plantar Fasciitis Treatment With Our Team
There are a variety of conditions that can cause heel pain, so it is important to get the proper diagnosis. At Northwest Extremity Specialists, we will evaluate your condition and recommend a treatment plan that gets you back on your feet as soon as possible. Call us today at 503-245-2420 to make an appointment in the Portland-area office closest to you.