Don’t Let Foot Pain Keep You off the Podium

Who isn’t inspired after watching weeks of the Olympics? We sat flipping channels as gymnasts and divers flipped in unimaginable ways and thought “no way!”—but then Usain and company lined up on the track and suddenly a few laps seemed a little more plausible. Hey, I can run, you realize. Maybe not at lightning speed, but that’s okay. Your inner Olympian can jog with the best of them.

That is, until a sharp, often excruciating pain flares up at your heel, and maybe shoots down the middle of your foot.

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common foot injuries and common causes of heel/foot pain, and runners, especially middle-aged adults, are prime candidates for it. But even if you’re not lacing up and hitting the track to indulge your Olympic fantasies, you can be sidelined by Plantar Fasciitis. So let’s take a look at what it is and how you can prevent it.

plantar fascia

What is the Plantar Fascia?

The Plantar Fascia is a strong, flat band of tissue/ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. The purpose of the fascia is to provide support to the arch of your foot. The Plantar Fascia can be strained or over stretched, which causes it to get weak, swollen and inflamed. It will then hurt when you stand or walk. Exact causes of Plantar Fasciitis are not well known, however it probably develops as the result of repeated small tears in the fascia.

What are the symptoms?

The classic symptom of Plantar Fasciitis is pain in the bottom of the heel when you take your first steps after getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting for a long time. The stiffness and pain in the morning or after resting improves after a few steps but gets worse as the day progresses. You may feel similar symptoms at the beginning of exercise, and the pain may actually get better or even go away as exercise continues but it eventually returns when the exercise is completed.

How does it develop?

Plantar Fasciitis usually develops gradually, and early symptoms may only be pain with the first steps of the day or after sitting. There are several conditions or activities that may lead to it, including:

How do I treat it?

Plantar Fasciitis treatment can be successful but it can take weeks or months for the symptoms to resolve. If the foot is not rested, then the pain will get worse. The injured ligament will remain inflamed and may never heal completely if you are not able to stop the activity or change the condition that caused it. Treatment is aimed at relieving inflammation and allowing small tears in the Plantar Fascia ligament to heal. Treatment also seeks to improve strength and flexibility in the foot, which will help to decrease stress to the ligament and stabilize the foot, preventing recurrence.

Home treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms include:

If symptoms continue then you should consult your local foot surgeon for treatment.   Options would include physical therapy, orthotics, and cortisone injections, and if those treatments are unsuccessful then potentially surgery.

How do I prevent it?

There are several methods to help prevent Plantar Fasciitis or help keep the condition from getting worse if you already have it.

By Jeff Armstrong, DPM, ATC with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners

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