Have you ever accidentally stomped on something sharp? You feel the pain immediately. Usually you pick your foot back up off the ground right away. You may even limp for a little while as your poor foot recovers from the pain. Imagine if you felt that discomfort almost every morning—not because you stepped on something, but because you took a step at all. Unfortunately, for too many people, that feeling is a reality for their heels. Problems like plantar fasciitis tighten tissues and make taking that first step very painful.
Tightened, Irritated Tissues
The plantar fascia is a large ligament that attaches to the heel bone and stretches forward to the toes, running along the sole of the foot. The painful irritation and inflammation of this main connector is called plantar fasciitis. Because the ligament swells and pulls on the heel bone when it’s irritated, you experience discomfort in the back of the foot. Usually this feels worst in the morning or after being seated for an extended period of time, when the tissue has had time to tighten. You notice the issue right away when you take that first step—you feel a sharp, burning pain in the heel. After walking around for a little while, the ligament stretches back out and offers some temporary relief.
Many problems can cause plantar fasciitis. Preexisting conditions like flat feet or excessively high arches strain the tissue along the bottom of the foot. Tight Achilles’ tendons or calf muscles pull on the heel bone and can cause issues as well. Often, however, wear and tear is the source of your discomfort. Long hours standing, walking, and running, especially on hard surfaces, strain the plantar fascia. Worn out or poorly fitted shoes can contribute to the problem as well. Since it’s usually an overuse injury, it doesn’t get better by itself; in fact, it generally gets worse the longer it goes untreated.
Soothing the Sole
You’ll need to have your feet thoroughly examined to rule out other possible causes of your heel pain, like a stress fracture. One of our doctors will evaluate your feet and may request diagnostic images to get a clearer picture of the structures that are being affected. Once they have diagnosed plantar fasciitis, they will help you determine the best course of conservative treatment to restore your feet and eliminate your pain.
You will need to relax the tightened tissues and reduce the swelling to relieve the discomfort. Changing your shoes or using prescription orthotics takes some of the strain off the plantar fascia and supports the foot, releasing the tension on the tissues. This is especially important if you have a preexisting condition that contributed to your heel pain. Icing and massaging the bottom of the foot can help reduce some of the swelling as well. Physical therapy exercises may help you stretch out the ligament, along with building up the strength of the supporting structures so the foot is more stable.
Plantar fasciitis is an uncomfortable problem that affects too many people. However, it doesn’t have to limit your activities or keep you off your feet. Conservative remedies can restore your ligament function and eliminate your discomfort. Simply hoping the problem will get better on its own just allows it time to get worse. Instead of waiting until you can barely walk, contact the experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona in Chandler and Gilbert and take care of your lower limbs. You can reach us for an appointment or more information by visiting the online contact page or by calling or faxing either office: for the Chandler location, call (480) 963-9000 or fax (480) 963-0375; for the Gilbert office, call (480) 981-1800 or fax (480) 981-0229.