Heel pain is nothing to take lightly. When your feet hurt, it can affect nearly every part of your day–from walking to your car to standing at work. You may have heard of plantar fasciitis, and you’re likely wondering if this condition is the source of your foot pain. Here’s what you need to know about plantar fasciitis, and what to do if you suspect you have it.
What is Plantar Fasciitis, Exactly?
Plantar fasciitis is a type of pain in the bottom of your heel caused by inflammation. Besides bones, the inside of your feet is also home to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Ligaments are made of tissue, and their purpose is to connect bone to other bones. A ligament called the plantar fascia gives plantar fasciitis its name. This ligament is the longest in your foot, running along the bottom of your foot from your heel bone to your toes. When the part of this ligament near your heel becomes inflamed, it can be extremely painful for you.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis Heel Pain?
Plantar fasciitis is sometimes called an “overuse injury.” This is because the condition occurs when patients put stress on their plantar fascia ligament by stretching or tearing it. This can happen many ways, including running, jumping, and wearing high-heeled shoes. People whose jobs involve standing and walking for long periods of time may cause stress to their plantar fascia, resulting in plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is very common–an estimated one in 10 adults will have to deal with it in their lifetime. Some people are more likely to get the condition than others. People with either flat feet or high arches are likely to have heel pain at some point in their lifetime. Women also tend to have this type of heel pain more often than men. People who are overweight or obese add additional stress to their feet, making plantar fasciitis more likely. Runners are also more susceptible to the condition.
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. If you’re experiencing pain on the bottom of your foot near your heel, plantar fasciitis is likely the cause. Most people experience this pain when stepping out of bed in the morning. After walking for a few minutes, the pain begins to go away. Plantar fasciitis can also cause pain after–but not usually during–exercise.
Treatments for Your Heel Pain
If you are experiencing foot pain, it’s important to get checked out by a podiatrist. Your doctor will thoroughly examine your feet and recommend a course of action specific to your condition. Some of the most common treatments for heel pain include:
- Home Care. Some simple, noninvasive treatments can help alleviate the pain of plantar fasciitis. To take care of your feet at home, try to rest in a seated or lying down position whenever possible. You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. Applying an ice pack to your heel area several times a day can also help to decrease inflammation.
- Orthotics. In order to decrease the stress on your plantar fascia, your doctor may prescribe orthotics. These are custom inserts for your shoes that support your arch and foot ligaments.
- Stretches. Stretching out your feet as soon as you wake up can help to lessen your heel pain. Your doctor can show you what to do and advise you on how often you should stretch your feet.
- Steroid Injections. In some cases, home care, orthotics, and stretching are not enough to stop heel pain. Doctors sometimes use steroid injections to lessen inflammation.
- Surgery. Most patients with plantar fasciitis will not need surgery. Surgery is not considered by most doctors until at least a year of other treatments. However, surgery is an option for some severe cases of plantar fasciitis pain.