Heel pain caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia is known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that connects the heel to the front of the foot. This condition is characterized by the inflammation of the plantar fascia and can result in discomfort and pain in the heel area.
This condition is more commonly found in individuals who are overweight or those who have jobs that require prolonged standing or walking. However, it is important to note that it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. While most patients typically experience a full recovery within six to 18 months, there are instances where symptoms may persist for a longer duration.
Plantar fasciitis can be diagnosed by your doctor through a combination of your medical history, a physical examination, and identifying the specific area of pain. In some cases, your doctor may request an X-ray or MRI to rule out any other potential causes of your heel pain. Additionally, they may recommend an ultrasound to assess the thickness and presence of any calcifications in the feet.
Rest and Ice: Apply ice packs to your feet several times a day to reduce swelling and inflammation. You may also find that stretching exercises or wearing supportive shoes or orthotics helps ease pain in the affected area.
Medicines: Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) can often provide temporary relief from plantar fasciitis’ pain and inflammation. If your condition is more severe, cortisone injections into the damaged ligament may be prescribed by your doctor for additional relief.
Night Splints: Night splints can help stretch the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon while you sleep, relieving morning pain. While you may need to wear the splint for several weeks, many people report success with it.
Surgery: For some individuals who have not responded to nonsteroidal medications or other treatments, surgical release of the plantar fascia ligament may be an option. This procedure is typically performed by a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon.
Ultrasonic Tissue Repair: This minimally invasive therapy utilizes an ultrasound device to guide a needlelike probe into inflamed tissue, breaking it up. Afterward, the damaged area is suctioned out.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy: This therapy utilizes sound waves to apply pressure directly onto the painful heel, and may be effective in certain cases. It’s especially helpful for those suffering from persistent or difficult-to-treat pain that other therapies cannot address.
Surgical Options: Your doctor may suggest gastrocnemius recession, which lengthens the calf muscle to stretch the plantar fascia ligament. This procedure can improve how you walk and reduce pain for those who are overweight or have chronic plantar fasciitis.
Other treatments for flat feet include physical therapy, which works to relax your muscles and ligaments while strengthening the arch of your foot. Your doctor might also suggest supportive shoes or custom orthotics as additional support for aching feet that may provide some comfort.
In some cases, your doctor may administer steroid injections directly into the damaged plantar fascia. These can be administered in their office setting or you may receive an over-the-counter steroid in the form of an ointment.
Most patients who benefit from simple treatments will go on to enjoy long-lasting pain reduction and function improvements without the use of prescription drugs. However, in some cases these treatments may not be sufficient, resulting in worsening pain or disability over time. In such cases, a second line treatment could include corticosteroid injections or more invasive procedures like plantar fascia release or gastrocnemius recession.
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