When the simple task of walking is hindered by a persistent, intense pain radiating from the bottom of the foot, the culprit is oftentimes a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
It’s a common ailment, affecting an estimated 2 million patients in the United States each year and it’s much more than simply dealing with a little foot pain. The pain can be severe enough to hobble an individual, negatively impacting his or her quality of life, especially if he or she is normally active. It can appear in one foot or both feet. It affects anyone, from professional athletes like Albert Pujols (baseball), Pau Gasol (basketball) and Antonio Gates (football), to weekend warriors and everyday people.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia – the bow-like tissue on the bottom of the foot – is damaged or torn resulting in inflammation, pain and stiffness. Continued physical activity and prolonged weight bearing can cause further aggravation. While damage to the plantar fascia can lead to plantar fasciitis, the ailment can actually develop without reason. There are, however, factors that can make an individual more prone to the condition including:
• Age (the elderly are more at risk for foot ailments)
• Tighter calf muscles that make it difficult to flex the foot
• Weight gain/obesity
• Gender (women are more prone than men)
• Possessing a very high arch
• Repetitive impact activity (running/sports/high-impact aerobic exercise, etc.)
• New or increased activity
• Improper footwear
The symptoms of plantar fasciitis clearly distinguish it from simple foot pain. The most common complaint from plantar fasciitis is a burning, piercing, or aching pain in the heel that lasts for about 30 days or longer. It also features increased pain in the morning or after extended periods of sitting. Fortunately for most sufferers, the accompanying stiffness and pain tends to loosen throughout the day.
There are a variety of treatments, surgical and non-surgical, available to help ease the pain and frustration of this aggravating foot ailment. Those treatments include the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen and/or Aleve or utilizing custom-made orthotic devices, boots, braces or splints that provide support for the foot.
Rest, icing and stretching exercises at home are also recommended. If those tactics don’t provide favorable results and some measure of relief, there are surgical options that remove or release the affected portion of the tissue responsible for the pain. Most people will be able to return to normal function a few weeks after surgery.