Patient Education

Patient Education

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Plantar Fasciitis- a common cause of heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is a very common cause of heel pain in adults. It is caused by inflammation from strain on the plantar fascia.  The plantar fascia is a tendon like tissue that begins at the heel of the foot and stretches along the bottom of the foot to the toes. The plantar fasica is an important support for the foot during walking.


The plantar fascia can become inflammed from prolonged standing, walking, running, or jumping. Any activity that results in repetitive impact on the heel of the foot increases the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.


Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain in the sole of the foot at the heel and midfoot. The pain is typically worse when first stepping onto the foot after a period of rest, such as, when getting out of bed in the morning or standing after a period of prlong sitting. 


Risk factors for developing plantar fasciitis include:

1) repetitive foot impact activities (running, walking, dancing, marching)

2) flat feet

3) high arched feet

4) excessive or sudden increase in exercise (time or frequency)

5) being obese or overweight

6) improperly fitted or wrong type of shoes for a given activity

7) activity being done on a hard surface


If you believe you are suffering from plantar fasciitis there are some things you can do to help the symptoms. First, you should rest but not stop all activity. Limit the time of repetitive activities and be sure to rest between activities. Icing for 5-10 minutes several times a day can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. I find a ice massage works the best. To do this, use a sizeable chunk of ice wrapped in a paper towel and with gentle pressure massage the ice into the tender parts of the foot. Icing before exercise can be helpful in reducing pain during exercise. Stretching is also helpful, but should be done with care. Simply pointing and flexing the foot and doing some foot/ankle circles several times before getting out of bed in the morning can loosen up the foot before taking that first step. Lastly, be sure you have proper footware for the type of activity. Consult with the shoe salesman instead for just buying shoes off the shelf.


When should you see your physician?


You should see your physician if the pain is severe, have visible swelling, bruising or if the above treatments are not helping.  Further evaluation by exam or xray may be needed.  Your physician may prescribe medication, preform taping, expand your home exercise program, recommend physical therapy, splinting or injection therapy.


Kathleen M. Curtis MD