What Exactly May Cause Heel Discomfort

Overview

Plantar fasciitis is a poorly understood condition. There is little consensus among medical professionals about what causes the problem, and no treatments have been reliably proven to treat it. A number of theories exists for why plantar fasciitis develops, but the ineffectiveness of conventional treatments suggests something is missing. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along the underside of the foot from the heel to the toes. The fascia helps maintain the integrity of the arch, provides shock absorption, and plays an important role in the normal mechanical function of the foot.


Causes

Plantar fasciitis is a painful disorder in the lower part of your foot usually around the heel. That pain usually hurts as you get up in the morning when you try to stand on your feet, or after any periods of inactivity. It is a disorder of a tough and strong band that connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar Fasciitis is caused by injuring that tough band on the bottom of the foot. The following may be the causes of plantar fasciitis. Tight calf muscles or tight Achilles tendon produces repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia. Gait and balance Problem may be a dominant cause of this disorder. Many people have a special style of walking, with something unique that causes some kind of imbalance in their body. It might be something like locked knees, feet that turn-out, a weak abdomen etc. This imbalance may place some pressure on the fascia, which eventually causes plantar fasciitis. Weak foot muscles don’t give enough support to the plantar fascia. The small muscles in the foot give the foot its shape by keeping the bones in place and by expanding and contracting to make a movement. Weak foot muscles will allow greater stress on the fascia. Foot anatomical problems such as flat feet or high arches can make the fascia ligament work or stretch abnormally. Flattening of the fat pad at the sole of the feet under the heels is a Degeneration process that is caused by poor footwear or by age. Shoes that have no proper heel cup can flatten that fat pad quite quickly and cause this disorder. Walking in shoes which do not have good arch support is considered to be a cause of plantar fasciitis. Wearing inadequate or worn out shoes may place more stress on the fascia ligament. If you wear shoes that don’t fit you by size or width, you may put your feet under excessive stress. Overweight Men and women are more vulnerable to developing the condition because of the excess weight on the foot. Pregnant women are at risk due to gaining weight through pregnancy and due to the pregnancy hormones that make ligaments loosen and relax. Sudden increase of activity like starting to run long distance or complete change of daily activity can cause heel pain and this disorder. Practice of repetitive athletic activities, like long distance running, playing a ball game, dancing or jumping, is a common cause for the disorder. Actually it is considered as one of the most common running injuries. Spending long periods of time on your feet everyday can cause plantar fasciitis. Working on your feet a few hours a day evey day may be the reason for your heel pain.


Symptoms

Among the symptoms for Plantar Fasciitis is pain usually felt on the underside of the heel, often most intense with the first steps after getting out of bed in the morning. It is commonly associated with long periods of weight bearing or sudden changes in weight bearing or activity. Plantar Fasciitis also called “policeman’s heel” is presented by a sharp stabbing pain at the bottom or front of the heel bone. In most cases, heel pain is more severe following periods of inactivity when getting up and then subsides, turning into a dull ache.


Diagnosis

A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose plantar fasciitis. Occasionally, further investigations such as an X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may be required to assist with diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.


Non Surgical Treatment

There are several things you can do to self-treat your heel or arch pain. The first thing is to wear better shoes and consider adding arch supports or custom foot orthotics to your shoes. Stretching the calf muscles can also often be helpful. Try to stretch when you first get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night. Another good exercise is to “roll” your arch and heel. This is done by placing a tennis ball, golf ball, or lacrosse ball on the floor and rolling your foot on top of it. Some people get extra benefit by “rolling” on a frozen water bottle. You should also carefully evaluate your fitness program as you may be overdoing it. You may want consider backing of new or recently added exercises or increases in training until your heel pain improves. If you work at a standing job try to take more time to walk around during the day and avoid standing in one place for too long.

Painful Heel


Surgical Treatment

Although most patients with plantar fasciitis respond to non-surgical treatment, a small percentage of patients may require surgery. If, after several months of non-surgical treatment, you continue to have heel pain, surgery will be considered. Your foot and ankle surgeon will discuss the surgical options with you and determine which approach would be most beneficial for you. No matter what kind of treatment you undergo for plantar fasciitis, the underlying causes that led to this condition may remain. Therefore, you will need to continue with preventive measures. Wearing supportive shoes, stretching, and using custom orthotic devices are the mainstay of long-term treatment for plantar fasciitis.


Stretching Exercises

While it’s typical to experience pain in just one foot, massage and stretch both feet. Do it first thing in the morning, and three times during the day. Achilles Tendon Stretch. Stand with your affected foot behind your healthy one. Point the toes of the back foot toward the heel of the front foot, and lean into a wall. Bend the front knee and keep the back knee straight, heel firmly planted on the floor. Hold for a count of 10. Plantar Fascia Stretch. Sit down, and place the affected foot across your knee. Using the hand on your affected side, pull your toes back toward your shin until you feel a stretch in your arch. Run your thumb along your foot–you should feel tension. Hold for a count of 10.

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