The plantar fascia is a tough and flexible band of tissue that runs under the sole of the foot. It connects the heel bone with the bones of the foot, and acts as a kind of shock absorber to the foot.
Sudden damage, or damage that occurs over many months or years, can cause tiny tears (microtears) to develop inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. This can cause the plantar fascia to thicken,
resulting in heel pain. The surrounding tissue and the heel bone can also sometimes become inflamed.
The cause of plantar fasciitis is often unclear and may be multifactorial. Because of the high incidence in runners, it is best postulated to be caused by repetitive microtrauma. Possible risk
factors include obesity, occupations requiring prolonged standing and weight-bearing, and heel spurs. Other risk factors may be broadly classified as either extrinsic (training errors and equipment)
or intrinsic (functional, structural, or degenerative). Training errors are among the major causes of plantar fasciitis. Athletes usually have a history of an increase in distance, intensity, or
duration of activity. The addition of speed workouts, plyometrics, and hill workouts are particularly high-risk behaviors for the development of plantar fasciitis. Running indoors on poorly cushioned
surfaces is also a risk factor. Appropriate equipment is important. Athletes and others who spend prolonged time on their feet should wear an appropriate shoe type for their foot type and activity.
Athletic shoes rapidly lose cushioning properties. Athletes who use shoe-sole repair materials are especially at risk if they do not change shoes often. Athletes who train in lightweight and
minimally cushioned shoes (instead of heavier training flats) are also at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Patients with plantar fasciitis typically experience pain underneath the heel and along the inner sole of the foot. In less severe cases, patients may only experience an ache or stiffness in the
plantar fascia or heel that increases with rest (typically at night or first thing in the morning) following activities which place stress on the plantar fascia. These activities typically include
standing, walking or running excessively (especially up hills, on uneven surfaces or in poor footwear such as thongs), jumping, hopping and general weight bearing activity. The pain associated with
this condition may also warm up with activity in the initial stages of injury. As the condition progresses, patients may experience symptoms that increase during sport or activity, affecting
performance. In severe cases, patients may walk with a limp or be unable to weight bear on the affected leg. Patients with this condition may also experience swelling, tenderness on firmly touching
the plantar fascia (often on a specific spot on the inner aspect of the heel) and sometimes pain on performing a plantar fascia stretch.
Plantar fasciitis is one of many conditions causing "heel pain". Some other possible causes include nerve compression either in the foot or in the back, stress fracture of the calcaneus, and loss of
the fatty tissue pad under the heel. Plantar fasciitis can be distinguished from these and other conditions based on a history and examination done by a physician. It should be noted that heel spurs
are often inappropriately thought to be the sole cause of heel pain. In fact, heel spurs are common and are nothing more than the bone's response to traction or pulling-type forces from the plantar
fascia and other muscles in the foot where they attach to the heel bone. They are commonly present in patients without pain, and frequently absent from those who have pain. It is the rare patient who
has a truly enlarged and problematic spur requiring surgery.
Non Surgical Treatment
Your health care provider will often recommend these steps first Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and inflammation. Heel and foot stretching exercises. Night
splints to wear while sleeping to stretch the foot. Resting as much as possible for at least a week. Wearing shoes with good support and cushions. Other steps to relieve pain include aply ice to the
painful area. Do this at least twice a day for 10 - 15 minutes, more often in the first couple of days. Try wearing a heel cup, felt pads in the heel area, or shoe inserts. Use night splints to
stretch the injured fascia and allow it to heal. If these treatments do not work, your health care provider may recommend waring a boot cast, which looks like a ski boot, for 3 - 6 weeks. It can be
removed for bathing. Custom-made shoe inserts (orthotics). Steroid shots or injections into the heel. Smetimes, foot surgery is needed.
Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles
place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of
the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope,
an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage.
Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is
partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an
open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage.
The following exercises are commonly prescribed to patients with this condition. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally,
they should be performed 2 - 3 times daily and only provided they do not cause or increase symptoms. Your physiotherapist can advise when it is appropriate to begin the initial exercises and
eventually progress to the intermediate and advanced exercises. As a general rule, addition of exercises or progression to more advanced exercises should take place provided there is no increase in
symptoms. Calf Stretch with Towel. Begin this stretch in long sitting with your leg to be stretched in front of you. Your knee and back should be straight and a towel or rigid band placed around your
foot as demonstrated. Using your foot, ankle and the towel, bring your toes towards your head until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf, Achilles tendon, plantar fascia or leg. Hold for 5
seconds and repeat 10 times at a mild to moderate stretch provided the exercise is pain free. Resistance Band Calf Strengthening. Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your foot as
demonstrated and your foot and ankle held up towards your head. Slowly move your foot and ankle down against the resistance band as far as possible and comfortable without pain, tightening your calf
muscle. Very slowly return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 - 20 times provided the exercise is pain free.