Your alarm clock goes off. Turning it off, you sit up in bed and stretch. Just as you’re getting out of bed, your feet touch the floor.
And there it is—that stabbing, sharp pain near your heel. It feels like your foot is splitting apart. Sound familiar? When it comes to plantar fasciitis, it can be impossible to find relief.
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia. And the straining, sharp, pulling, or stretching pain often associated with it can be excruciating for patients. We spoke with Fairview Range podiatrist, Dr. Stacey Helland, to learn more about this painful foot condition and what “steps” you can take to find relief.
What is plantar fasciitis?
“Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot,” explains Helland. “The inflammation is caused by micro tears within the fascia. The plantar fascia originates at the inside heel bone, runs across the bottom of the foot and inserts near the toes.”
Many people believe that their intense pain caused by plantar fasciitis is in their heel; however, that would make the pain a heel spur rather than affecting the band of tissue from the inflamed tissue of the plantar fascia.
“Despite common belief, having a heel spur (seen on x-rays) very rarely causes heel pain. Heel spurs are very common, but the pain in the heel is almost always from the contracture of the soft tissues attached to the heel, not from the heel spur itself,” says Helland. “Surgical removal of the bone spur will very unlikely decrease the plantar fascia pain, so treatment is aimed at treating the inflamed soft tissues.”
How can you get plantar fasciitis?
Most people who have plantar fasciitis know that pain can come after long periods of standing or sitting and it can be often worse after exercise. But how can a person actually get plantar fasciitis?
According to Dr. Helland, there are many reasons why an individual may be experiencing plantar fasciitis, “A tight Achilles tendon; poor arch support in shoe gear; wearing high heels; being overweight; standing on hard surfaces for extended periods of time,” lists Helland. “And impact exercises such as running and jumping; high arches; flat arches, and direct trauma to the plantar fascia (stepping on a curb or sharp object in the middle of the foot).”
How can you treat plantar fasciitis?
Fortunately for those suffering, there are options to help treat plantar fasciitis.
“There are multiple treatment options for plantar fasciitis based on the length and severity of the pain along with predisposing factors,” explains Helland. “Based on an individual’s foot type and clinical presentation, the best conservative treatment options for the individual will be determined. Surgery is not a first line treatment but may be a viable option in certain circumstances once conservative treatment options have been exhausted.”
Along with these treatment options, medication, certain exercises, resting, icing, and stretching, all as prescribed by a physician, are options to consider as well.
How long does it typically take for pain to go away?
It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what treatment methods will help reduce plantar fasciitis pain and when the pain will stop.
“Plantar fascia pain is extremely variable and occurs at different intensities for varying lengths of time based on the causative factors and the individual,” says Helland. “A plantar fascia flare may even become more or less intense for different lengths of time on the same foot in the same individual. Pain can last one day or up to a year. Generally, the earlier the pain is treated and the more aggressive one is with following the prescribed treatment plan, the shorter the time frame the pain will last.”
This is why it’s critical that a patient maintain the treatment plan as prescribed by their physician or podiatrist.
Will plantar fasciitis go away, or will a patient just have to treat its symptoms?
In most cases, plantar fasciitis pain will go away on its own, but without proper treatment, the pain can have lasting effects.
“Plantar fasciitis will most often go away on its own, but it can be very painful and can last for many months without proper treatment,” expresses Helland. “Without treating the underlying cause (often a biomechanical issue such as high or flattened arches), the higher the likelihood that the pain will return.”
Is there an age range that is affected the most? Or a certain occupation?
“Plantar fasciitis is common in the middle decades of life between age 40 and 60, but it can occur at any age range and depends on the individual,” answers Helland. “For example, pain may last longer in those who are more active (running and jumping activities) without proper shoe gear, those who are overweight, or those who have occupations standing on hard, cement surfaces for long periods of time.”
For many individuals who experience plantar fasciitis pain, it can help to change the type of physical activity causing strain on the foot by alternating between high-impact and low-impact activity, for example, switching running and jumping activities for exercises like biking or swimming. Talk to your podiatrist to ensure you have the proper footwear for activities that may be causing potential flares.
When treated properly, it is possible to find relief for plantar fasciitis foot pain. If you have additional questions or if you would like to request an appointment, contact Fairview Range at 866-806-7139 or log onto MyChart at https://www.fairview.org/mychart today.