Plantar Fasciitis: Causes & Treatment

by | Jan 9, 2013 | Heel Pain

Plantar Fasciitis is considered the most common cause of heel pain. Pain and inflammation occurs when the long ligament on the bottom of your foot stretches and tears. This plantar fascia ligament, composed of tissue fibers, extends from your heel to your toes. If you are currently experiencing burning, aching, or a sharp/stabbing pain in the heel or arch, you may have plantar fasciitis. You might notice that your pain is usually worse in the morning or after rising from rest: this is due to a tightening of the plantar ligament during sleep or long periods of inactivity. You can visualize the plantar ligament on the bottom of your foot as a ‘rubber band’ which relaxes and contracts with movement or physical activity.

Another cause of plantar fasciitis can be inflammatory arthritis. Arthritis may cause inflammation to areas where tendons or ligaments attach to bone, which may result in plantar fasciitis. This condition is usually found in older individuals. Unfortunately, our tissues, tendons, and ligaments become weaker as we age, this in turn increases the risk of injury or damage. 

Faulty mechanics of the foot can also cause plantar fasciitis. If you have flat feet or a high arch, you may be more prone to developing plantar fasciitis. This results because the foot hits the ground at an abnormal angle or position during gait, resulting in excessive stress or strain to the plantar fascia. As a result, the plantar ligament is becoming overworked and stretched beyond its normal range, resulting in pain and inflammation. People who stand for extended periods of time, whether at work or in general, are also more apt to develop this condition.  

Usually conservative treatment for plantar fasciitis can relieve your symptoms. Stretching the bottom of your foot, especially early in the morning (before any activity) can help to relieve your heel pain symptoms. In addition, stretching the Achilles tendon and calf muscles is also recommended. Rolling the bottom of the foot (along the plantar fascia) on a golf ball or tennis ball is also beneficial. It is important to seek the attention of a podiatrist if your pain persists or doesn’t subside after attempting self-treatment-a proper exam can determine the exact cause of the pain and allow for better targeting of treatment.

As for home treatment, begin treating your plantar fasciitis with rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Follow with ice: 20 minutes on your foot and 20 minutes off (for about 3 times a day). Orthotics (custom inserts) are also greatly beneficial and work by re-distributing your weight and pressure more evenly across the bottom of your foot. Visit your podiatrist in order to receive a custom molded orthotic device for your feet. They will help prevent damage and pain associated with plantar fasciitis by elevating your heel and adding support. As plantar fasciitis is a condition which can reoccur, utilization of orthotics has proven to reduce repeated bouts with this problem.

Other conservative treatments may involve immobilization in a boot or splint, taping, injections, or physical therapy. The key is with the wide range of conservative treatment available, and the fact that this condition typically responds well to conservative intervention, surgery is rarely required or recommended.  

If you have any questions or concerns about your foot or ankle health contact Dr. Gregg Neibauer toll free at (877) 721-FEET or (406) 721-4007 or request an appointment at Alpine Foot and Ankle Clinic via our website