‘Heel Pain – Plantar Fasciitis’ by Margarita Gurevich published in Great Health Guide (Nov 2016). What is plantar fasciitis? It’s a term used to describe the inflammation of the underside of your foot. It is also quite commonly known as heel pain. Do you suffer from this condition? Read this article by Margarita to discover how it is diagnosed, how to prevent it and how you can treat it today.
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Great Health: Heel Pain – Plantar Fasciitis
written by Margarita Gurevich
Plantar fasciitis – the term might be a mouthful but the meaning is quite simple – inflammation of the fascia (connective tissue) on the underside of the foot, which connects the heel to the toes and acts as a shock absorber. When the tension on this band becomes too strong small tears can form; repetitive tears and stretching can lead to irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia, causing pain in the foot and heel.
In this article we will review how plantar fasciitis is generally diagnosed as well as what you can do to prevent and treat it. Bear in mind that each case is different and that the information provided in this article is not a substitute for seeing a qualified health professional.
Unlike many other conditions that can be tricky to diagnose, the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is usually quite straightforward. Several factors in the history and examination are so characteristic that in most cases the diagnosis is not difficult. Pain that is worse on first arising in the morning or after a period of rest is highly suggestive of plantar fasciitis. The pain often improves when we start to walk but may recur after prolonged, continued, or more stressful activity. When severe, the pain may have a throbbing, searing quality. The second highly characteristic feature is the location of the pain, which is usually along the arch of the foot, anywhere between the heel and toes.
Your physiotherapist can perform a few simple tests that are very specific to plantar fasciitis. These include palpation (feeling) of the arch of the foot, movements of the foot and toes as well as testing the strength of the muscles of the foot. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, X-Ray etc are generally not required. However, if the symptoms don’t improve with treatment it is important to undergo these tests in order to make sure that the diagnosis is correct and that there is nothing else causing the clinical signs.
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There are a number of risk factors that have been shown to be associated with plantar fasciitis. These include the following:
Exercise which places repetitive stress on the plantar fascia, such as dancing (particularly ballet), long distance running and others
Age (40-60 is the most common age for presentation)
Abnormal foot biomechanics (e.g. having a high arch, incorrect pattern of walking and others)
Certain occupations which requires the person to spend a lot of time on the feet
Relationships have also been proposed, but not established, for other factors, such as acute injury, the presence of a heel spur, the shoe type, the walking surface and others.
From this list it is evident that the risk of developing plantar fasciitis can be significantly reduced if we do the following:
Maintaining a healthy weight
Making sure that if we are involved in sports which stress the plantar fascia, we have the correct technique
Trying to limit the time on our feet. Even if our occupation forces us to be on our feet a lot it is usually still possible to take breaks and do certain stretches which take the pressure off the plantar fascia, allowing it to recover