Combat Plantar Fasciitis

Chances are that you know someone who has experienced Plantar Fasciitis.  It is one of the most common foot ailments.  Plantar Fasciitis is categorized by pain in the heel, which typically starts without any specific event as a dull ache, and can quickly increase to a sharp, stabbing pain if not addressed in time.  The pain usually occurs when the foot is bearing weight on the ground.   Most people will complain of pain or stretching in the bottom of their foot with their first steps out of bed in the morning.

So what is Plantar Fasciitis anyway?  The answer starts at the foot.  The foot is a very complex structure, with 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons alone.  One of the structures supporting the foot is called the Plantar Fascia.  It is located on the bottom of the foot and goes from the heel bone to the front of the foot.  Its role is to support the arch of the foot when standing and walking.  If your fascia gets overloaded in any way, you are at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis

It is quite easy to overload the plantar fascia and increase risk of plantar fasciitis.  The most common ways the plantar fascia is overloaded are:

  1. Increased mileage for runners
  2. Increased time spent still standing in one place
  3. Decreased support in shoe wear (wearing sneakers > 10 months old or wearing flip flops)
  4. Increased body weight

If the fascia is overloaded long enough, the tissue structures start to break down and an acute inflammation begins.  This is what causes the pain.  The best ways to deal with plantar fasciitis are:

  1. Improve Arch support in your shoes (make sure that your sneakers are not > 10 months old)
  2. Gradually increase your mileage as a runner.
  3. If you must stand still for long periods of time, try to stand to softer surfaces (foam mats, etc)
  4. Use ice and anti-inflammatories in order to decrease inflammation.

Try these tips as soon as you start to feel any heel pain coming on, and they should do the trick.  If they don’t work, I would suggest you see your doctor.  The research shows that the sooner you address Plantar Fasciitis, the better your chances are to fully resolve your pain.  Your MD may suggest medications, injections, or physical therapy to help you get back on your feet!

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Diana grew up in a small suburb north of Boston. She received her clinical doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Boston University in 2006. Diana started practicing as a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. While at MGH, she developed a specialty in the evaluation and treatment of complex lumbopelvic dysfunction. Diana is currently practicing at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston where she is the Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor of the Spine program. She is presently a Boston resident and her interests outside physical therapy include cooking, walking on the Esplanade, and international travel.

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