Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation, and swelling of the plantar fascia is the most common cause of heel pain reported to doctors and podiatrists. Many treatments, therapies, and products are available to facilitate healing of this condition.
When a stabbing pain is felt in the heel, the plantar fascia is most likely the culprit. When this ligament that runs from the heel to the front of the foot becomes irritated, it can take up to a year to heal and is extremely painful. Self-treatment at home is usually the first step taken when suffering from this condition.
First, the patient must rest as much as possible. Putting continued strain on the foot will only increase the irritation. Walking or running on hard surfaces is not advised. Second, apply ice to the heel and take anti-inflammatory medications or deep kneading leg massagers. Ice and medicine such as ibuprofen will decrease the swelling and inflammation. Third, wear shoes with a cushioned sole and good arch supports. Plantar fasciitis shoes, as some call them, are shoes with good motion control and arch support. Wearing these shoes can ensure you don’t tear any more muscles in your ligaments, allowing your foot to heal, over time.
Another option is orthotics. Orthotics may be necessary to achieve correct support and shock absorption. Orthotics are affordable and successful in treating plantar fasciitis. Insoles can properly align the foot, reinforce the heel and re-stretch the plantar fascia. Finally, taping the foot can help speed the recovery from plantar fasciitis. Taping limits the range of movement of the foot which prevents the over-stretching of the plantar fascia.
If self-treatment options are not improving the condition of the heel, then physical therapy may assist in the healing process of plantar fasciitis. A physical therapist can instruct the patient on exercises to stretch the plantar fascia and the achilleas tendon. Exercises that strengthen the ankle and heel are advantageous as well. Gentle stretches performed on a regular basis will produce the best results. The use of night splints can assist with stretching the ligament. These boot-like splints gently stretch the plantar fascia by keeping the toes in an upright position. This position prevents further shortening of the plantar fascia and stretches the calf muscles.
Cortisone injections or ESWT may be necessary if other treatments are unsuccessful. An injection of cortisone will decrease the inflammation and pain but doctors are hesitant to perform this procedure because of potential side effects. Fat atrophy of the heel and plantar fascia rupture may occur—both of which will cause more pain for the patient. Extracorporeal shock wave therapy, or ESWT, is a promising treatment for plantar fasciitis. In this procedure, a burst of energy is used to cause damage to the plantar fascia ligament. The body’s natural healing process will then begin to repair the inflamed and swollen tissue.
Surgery is a last resort used only when all other treatment methods have failed. Surgeons first remove the ligament from the heel so incisions can be made. These incisions release the tension in the heel which provides pain relief.
Plantar fasciitis treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Products such as night splints, orthotics, massagers, and proper shoes assist in healing as well. Early treatment may lessen the chance of requiring surgery which is more invasive.