Heel Pain – What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Sports injury. Woman with pain in ankle while jogging

Waking up in the morning and being greeted with pain in your feet as soon as you step on the floor may be a frustrating and frightening experience, but this is exactly what patients with plantar fasciitis experience.

The word “plantar” refers to the bottom of the foot, and “fascia” is a connective tissue. The plantar fascia specifically connects the heel to the toes, supporting the arch of the foot. The suffix “-itis” simply means inflammation. Putting this all together, “plantar fasciitis” refers to the inflammation of the plantar fascia of one or both feet. This condition is the most common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis occurs when repeated stress causes small tears to develop in the plantar fascia. This may affect people of any age, though it is most common in middle aged individuals. Younger people may develop plantar fasciitis, particularly if they are on their feet a lot, such as working retail or being an athlete. Obesity, high arches, flat feet, poorly fitting or worn out shoes, and/or a tight Achilles’ tendon may also increase one’s risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis may affect one or both feet.

The most prominent symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel or bottom of the foot upon standing up following a prolonged period of inactivity, such as sleeping or sitting for an extended period of time. Depending on the patient, this pain may begin to recede after a few steps, or it may persist throughout the day. Treatment may vary from patient to patient, since there is not one foolproof treatment. Replacing old, worn-out, or non-supportive shoes, icing your heels, cutting back on high-impact physical activity, or performing special stretches may go a long way to help reduce symptoms. If none of those are effective, however, your doctor may recommend special braces or even steroid injections. These methods tend to start reducing pain quickly, but complete resolution of symptoms may take months or even a year.


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