The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Posted by on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

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What do NFL quarterback Eli Manning, NBA point guard Kobe Bryant, Olympic marathon runner Ryan Hall, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney all have in common? They have all been hit by the piercing pain of plantar fasciitis. This condition affects up to 10 percent of all runners, not to mention other active individuals from to golfers and walkers, to soldiers and people who work on their feet all day.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

According to the Sports Injury Clinic, symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Stabbing pain under the heel
  • Shooting pain along the arch
  • Worse pain in the morning or after long periods of sitting
  • Gradual or sudden development of pain

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

“Its underlying cause remains surprisingly enigmatic,” Gretchen Reynolds reports for the NY Times. She says it’s generally agreed upon that plantar fasciitis is essentially an irritation of the plantar fascia tissue, which runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel to the arch. The fascia tightens during sleep, which is why the morning pain is typically the worst. However, doctors cannot seem to agree on a direct cause.

One theory is that chronic inflammation from repeated strain during running or another activity causes an overuse injury. However, scientists biopsied fascia tissue and did not find the inflammation they expected. “Plantar fasciitis does not involve inflammatory cells,” Dr. Karim Khan, a professor of family practice medicine at the University of British Columbia, told the NY Times.

“Exactly what causes plantar fasciitis is not well understood,” WebMD explains. “But it probably develops as the result of repeated small tears in the plantar fascia.” The other theory is that weakened tissue in the foot begins to tear over time — and,  for whatever reason, does not heal. Many different conditions can aggravate the foot in such a way — wearing improper shoes, tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles, pronation, high arches, being overweight, prolonged walking or standing, repetitive and strenuous activities, aging, or injuring the foot in some other way.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Options

The first line of defense is to take it easy! According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, physicians will first recommend:

  • Tylenol or Advil to reduce pain
  • Heel and foot stretches
  • Night splints to stretch the foot while sleeping
  • A week or more of rest (as much as possible!)
  • Getting properly fitted with supportive, cushioned shoes

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that simple stretches were effective at relieving plantar fasciitis symptoms. “Nearly 80 percent of my patients have shown improvement in just eight weeks of stretching therapy,” said Dr. Judy Baumhauer, orthopaedic surgeon and president-elect of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS).

If these at-home therapies do not take the edge off, then stop in to see a professional. Here at the Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we have several other types of plantar fasciitis treatment that may be used:

  • Custom Orthotics
  • Prescription Med
  • Physical Therapy
  • Costeroid Injections
  • Splints / Casts
  • Gait Analysis

Not all heel pain turns out to be plantar fasciitis, so be sure to seek a true medical diagnosis for your condition. We cannot stress that enough! There is no one-size-fits-all treatment at this point. Your relief from pain will depend upon a customized approach that fits your needs and lifestyle.

Have a pressing question? Call Dr. Geldwert at (212) 996-1900.

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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.