What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis may sound like an unfamiliar and alarming health condition, but in reality, it is a very common orthopedic complaint about people of all demographics around the world. It is often understood as pain in the heels and is experienced by most people. The pain is often felt in the heel of the foot, the arches, or sometimes both areas. The pain is often described by many as a dull ache which spreads as there is more pressure put on the foot. It sometimes reduces when the foot is rested and may begin again soon as there is some activity.
This dull ache in the heels and arch of the foot is caused due to the inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a ligament that is thick and like a web. It begins at the heel and connects the front of your foot. This ligament is essential in balancing our weight over our feet and in turn, helps us walk. It acts a major shock absorber in our feet. When there is excess pressure put on your feet, there is a risk of the plantar fascia to get injured and inflamed. Most patients experience a burning pain extending from the heel to the rest of the foot. It may occur in one leg first and then the other. Also, most patients report that most times, the pain is felt after the activity, rather than during, and tends to reduce when the feet are rested.
What are the causes/risk factors of Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis can be caused by a myriad of causes. Some are more obvious, while in several cases, patients developed this pain without any prior risk factors. Some of the major causes of Plantar Fasciitis are explored below:
- Age factor: In most cases, Plantar fasciitis is observed to have manifested in patients between ages 40-60.
- Prolonged heavy activity: People who indulge in activities or sports that put a high amount of pressure on the Plantar Fascia are reported to suffer more often. Activities that put too much stress on the heel such as frequent running, forms of dancing etc are common causes of this disease setting in early.
- Occupational hazard: Plantar Fasciitis is also an occupational hazard for many – factory workers, people working in restaurants, teachers and any other jobs that require long durations of standing and walking are common causes.
- Weight: Another common cause of Plantar Fasciitis, people who are overweight are at higher risk. The high weight puts excess pressure on the plantar fascia ligament.
- Foot shape: At times, the inherent shape of the foot caused by conditions such as flat foot, overly arched feet, unusual walking styles etc put excess pressure on the feet, thereby resulting in Plantar Fasciitis.
1. Ensure a healthy weight:
It is important to remain in a healthy weight range according to your height and body type. Shedding the extra pounds immediately results in lesser pressure on the plantar fascia ligament, thus preventing Plantar Fasciitis.
2. Invest in supportive shoes:
Plantar Fasciitis is also caused majorly due to prolonged wear of high heeled shoes, or shoes that are not supporting the feet. Also, walking and performing activities barefoot for a long period of time adds excess pressure. It is a smart remedy to invest in a pair of supportive shoes that have a good shock absorbing feature. Also, ensure that your shoes have small to medium (not high) heels and support the arch of the foot very well. It is also a great idea to purchase a soft and strong shoe insert to ensure better support and added cushioning.
3. Modify your sport:
If it is a sport like running, dancing or aerobics that is causing your Plantar Fasciitis, it is important to modify your sport. It is always a good idea to continue working out, but by reducing the intensity or modifying the exercise, the amount of pressure put on the plantar fascia is significantly reduced. Also, if it is an occupational hazard, try to reduce the amount of walking and standing, all while giving your feet adequate rest and relaxation.
4. Rest often:
As obvious as it may seem, it is important to give your feet adequate rest. Especially if your foot is swollen due to the inflammation of the plantar fascia, it is vital to remove your footwear and keep your feet elevated on a chair or bed with a pillow. Given much-needed rest to the feet is essential so as to not aggravate the condition of the ligament and also to minimize pain.
5. Apply an ice pack:
One of the pain symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis is inflammation and pain in the heel and arch area of the foot. In such cases, it is a good idea to apply an ice pack to the area. You may use a bag of frozen peas or a bag of ice wrapped in a cloth. Apply this ice pack for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day, and especially after any walking activity to reduce the inflammation and provide relaxation.
6. Home stretches:
Stretching and massaging the heel and arch area of the foot is essential. Doing simple home exercises that stretch the feet ensure greater strength for the lower leg. Focus especially on easy exercises focusing on the heels, toes and calves.
7. Sports tape:
There are several sports tapes available online and over the counter. Using these tapes to tightly tie the foot area, especially the heels ensure minimal damage to the plantar fascia and ensure added support. Several socks of similar types are also available.
Plantar Fasciitis is a minor but curable disease. Many people dismiss it as a simple pain in the foot and then suffer once they develop the condition. It is essential to identify the symptoms and implement the right measures to ensure minimal pressure on the plantar fascia ligament. Keeping the above points in mind will hopefully reduce the pain of Plantar Fasciitis right at home!