The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Is Plantar Fasciitis An Epidemic?

Posted by on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

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Last month, the LA Times suggested that plantar fasciitis is not just commonplace in America – it’s an epidemic. “I see 18 to 20 patients a day with plantar fasciitis,” Massachusetts podiatrist Michael King told the paper. “Heel pain is epidemic. Some people just tolerate the pain and try to get by.” The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says approximately 2 million Americans are treated for plantar fasciitis each year. Furthermore, 10 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from plantar fasciitis at some time during their lives.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, according to WebMD. It occurs when the flat band of tissue (ligament) connecting your heel bone to your toes weakens, swells and becomes inflamed. This causes a sharp stabbing pain in the heel when you walk or stand for an extended period of time. Often, the pain is worst in the morning when the body is stiffest, but it may also become bothersome later in the day after prolonged activity.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is sometimes referred to as “policeman’s heel” because it tends to affect people who are constantly walking or standing on the job. Runners and athletes in high-impact sports like basketball or football are also particularly susceptible. Other risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Obesity
  • High arches
  • Excessive pronation
  • Worn-out shoes
  • Flip-flops or flat shoes with no arch support
  • Reduced ankle movement due to tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons

What Treatments Are Available for Plantar Fasciitis?

A combination of treatments is needed to address plantar fasciitis. The first line of defense includes resting, icing the heel, taking over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, stretching, getting a new pair of shoes with good arch support, and adding inserts with better cushion to the shoes. You should notice improvement in your condition within a few weeks to a few months.

Dr. Robert A. Kornfeld, Founder of the Institute for Integrative Podiatric Medicine, says that “total body care” is the key to curing persistent heel pain. A healthy diet — rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables — is ideal, he says. Eating salads for dinner more often could be a good start. Supplements like probiotics, amino acids and antioxidants are important. Water consumption is a must.

Furthermore, people can be tested for food sensitivity, free radical levels, fatty acid types, and the functioning of the adrenal stress hormone. “What you want to do is focus on treating the cause of your foot pain, not mask your symptoms with medications that may actually make the problem worse,” Dr. Kornfeld explains.

Patients who do not respond to these treatments may need night splints that stretch the foot while they sleep. Injections of steroids or Botox are sometimes administered by a doctor. Surgery is rare and only recommended for patients who are unable to relieve their pain through other methods for 6 to 12 months. Here in our NYC podiatric office we can help you with any type of treatment you need.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.