Our feet continually expand and contract as we move around. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue along the bottom of the foot, from the heel bone up to the toes. It supports the arch of the foot, and stretches whenever we walk. Unfortunately, sometimes our ligaments fail under too much stress, and tearing can occur at microscopic levels within the tissue. While it absorbs much weight and pressure, a number of factors can affect the ligament’s capacity, causing it to be overworked, thus causing heel pain.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, as a result of too much pressure placed on the ligament. Slight tearing occurs, typically near the calcaneous (heel bone), and the area becomes inflamed, making it painful to walk. It is the most common form of heel pain and one of the most common orthopedic problems overall.

Causes

Structural problems around the foot are the most common causes of plantar fasciitis. People with flat feet or high arches are among the most likely to experience heel pain, as slight deformity puts extra pressure on the ligament to compensate for altered weight distribution. Speaking of weight; obesity or sudden weight gain is a primary cause for overworking the body, especially the feet. There are also a high amount of active people who are affected; runners and those who spend long hours on their feet over-stretch the fascia and can cause tearing. Other problems include abnormally tight Achilles tendons or wearing shoes with little-to-no arch support. The way we walk, our age, our activity level, and the types of shoes we wear can all determine how much stress we put on our feet from day to day. With so many different causes, it is important to see a podiatrist before making assumptions.Arvada foot doctor; Dr. James Scales is qualified to help you figure out which cause is at the core of your heel pain, and help alleviate your symptoms.

Symptoms

You can’t see the stress of the ligament without medical imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, MRI), but you can certainly feel the pain of it. Here are some common indicators of plantar fasciitis:

  • Is the pain usually worse when you get up in the morning? While we sleep, our ligaments contract and are relieved of pressure, but upon waking, the first few steps of someone with plantar fasciitis are a painful stretch of an inflamed ligament.
  •  Do you experience aching, burning, and/or stiffness in the bottom of your heel? Prolonged movement or sudden strenuous activity can leave the heel feeling sore on the inside for days or weeks at a time.
  • Has the pain been worsening over time? If you pull a muscle or suffer a minor external injury, the pain usually lessens after a few days. With plantar fasciitis, however, continued pressure to the fascia increases the chance of tearing and heightens the pain of the foot.
  • Do you have trouble stretching your feet? Physical pain may keep you from being able to comfortably extend your toes or stretch your foot out away from your shin.

Diagnosis

Please see a doctor if these symptoms persist. When visiting a podiatrist, they will most likely ask you about your activity level, type of footwear, and gain a history of the type of pain you experience. They may also ask to observe you stand and walk around, or take an imaging scan of your foot. Physical exams of the foot may also detect abnormal stiffness or swelling around the arch or heel. Discussion of past injuries or periods of strong activity may also lead to a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.

Treatment

Well-trained foot doctors, like Dr. Scales, located in Arvada, CO, will know better than recommending surgery right off the bat. There are many simple ways to reduce stress of the foot and relieve your pain.

Ice, pain relievers, and rest. Foot injuries are typically met with propping the foot up, applying a bag of ice, and taking an ibuprofen. In this case it may not be so different. Limit walking activity when possible; you might find a reduced level of pain as inflammation decreases and the ligament begins to heal.

Have you tried foot exercises? Your doctor may recommend stretching your heel, rotating your foot, or stretching and massaging your calf to relax stress on the foot area.

Give yourself a little support. Try wearing shoes with strong arch support, or apply devices such as inserts or heel cups. You may also be asked to wear custom-made shoe inserts or other devices that wrap and support the foot.

Therapy as needed. If previous methods don’t alleviate your pain, your doctor may suggest physical or injection therapy. With physical therapy, working with a trained professional will help you exercise and give you tips on how best treat your foot. With injection therapy, the hormone cortisone may be applied to the inflamed area to heal the pain.

Removable casts and splints. Keeping the foot in a certain position (immobile or extended) can help the ligament strengthen over a period of a few weeks.

Even if surgery is needed, you should be presented with a number of options that best suit your need and are most likely to correct the problem. Dr. Scales uses a minimally-invasive procedure using fluroscopy to release the plantar fascia. Specifically, Arvada foot doctor Dr. James Scales specializes in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.  Contact our Arvada podiatry office by phone or schedule an appointment today for treatment.