Plantar Fasciitis

Overview

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Heel pain or arch pain has many causes, but one of the most common is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of dense connective tissue that begins on the heel, fans out over the arch and connects to the ball of the foot.

The plantar fascia helps stabilize the foot and support the arch. The tissues stretch when you stand, walk or run. But problems occur when the tension placed on this structure exceeds its ability to stretch.

Most people feel plantar fasciitis pain first as a shooting or aching pain in the heel. It might come on suddenly or gradually worsen.

While plantar fasciitis usually diminishes with time and home treatment, you might need advice and support from experts in foot and heel pain. Our orthopedic and sports medicine teams offer noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments for plantar fasciitis. From physical therapy exercises to bracing and, in some cases, surgery – at Aurora Health Care, we’ve got you covered.

The Aurora Difference

Plantar Fasciitis Relief From Experts

It’s important to get the right diagnosis and treatment to relieve plantar fasciitis and get back to an active life. At Aurora, we can provide both.

People choose us for plantar fasciitis treatment because of our:

  • Advanced orthopedic care: Our orthopedic and sports medicine doctors – including sports medicine-trained family doctors – have deep experience treating foot and ankle problems. That means you can get an accurate diagnosis and the treatment you need to keep moving.
  • Noninvasive options: We offer access to noninvasive treatments for plantar fasciitis, from custom orthotics to physical therapy. And with cutting-edge treatment options like the AlterG antigravity treadmill, we help you keep moving – even during recovery. Learn more about orthopedic physical therapy.
  • Sports health experts: Our performance training programs can improve the way you run so you can heal from plantar fasciitis and stay active. Read about our sports performance programs.
  • Minimally invasive tendon treatments: We offer tendon procedures to break up and remove the scar tissue around heel spurs that can cause plantar fasciitis pain. Because doctors do this treatment through a tiny incision, most people return to normal activities within a few weeks.
  • Convenient locations: With locations throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, it’s easy to find a doctor and physical therapist close to home. See our locations.

Causes & Risk Factors

Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis

Usually, plantar fasciitis develops with no apparent cause. However, these risk factors make you more likely to develop plantar fasciitis:

  • Being involved in work that keeps you on your feet, like factory work or teaching
  • Having tight calf muscles that make it difficult to flex your foot and bring your toes up toward your shin
  • Wearing unsupportive shoes
  • Running or other sports with repetitive impact
  • Increasing or adding an activity like walking or running
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having feet with very high arches or flat arches

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

Irritation and inflammation in the plantar fascia is the root cause of plantar fasciitis pain.

The most common causes of plantar fascia inflammation include:

  • Wearing shoes without proper arch support
  • Changing the type of shoes you wear
  • Having flat feet or very high arches
  • Increasing running mileage or having poor running mechanics
  • Having tight calf muscles

Symptoms

What Are Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

With plantar fasciitis, sharp pain typically begins at the heel and gradually moves into the center of the foot. This type of pain can occur:

  • After exercise
  • When you take the first few steps in the morning or after sitting for a long time
  • During and after prolonged standing

Diagnosis & Treatment

Home Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis treatment begins at home, with resting the foot and changing your routine. As symptoms decrease, most people are able to get back to their regular activities.

You may be able to relieve plantar fasciitis pain by:

  • Stretching the calf muscles and plantar fascia several times a day
  • Rolling a tennis ball under the arch of your foot while sitting down – this helps massage and stretch the plantar fascia
  • Controlling pain and inflammation with an oral anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin (Before starting these or any other medications, please consult with your doctor.)
  • Giving your feet a break by resting them when the pain is the worst
  • Using arch supports or custom foot orthotics (inserts) in your shoes
  • Decreasing mileage or stopping running altogether, or switching to low-impact or no-impact workouts
  • Icing the heel and arch for 10 to 20 minutes after painful activity

Seeing a Doctor for Plantar Fasciitis

If plantar fasciitis doesn’t improve within a few weeks or the pain gets worse, contact your doctor.

During a physical exam, we’ll ask about your foot pain, including when it started and what you think caused it. We’ll also do some simple tests to check where it hurts and study how your foot moves.

Sometimes, our doctors use X-rays to diagnose plantar fasciitis. X-rays show the bones in the foot. X-rays can also show heel spurs – bony growths on the heel bone that do not cause plantar fasciitis but often occur along with it.

Learn more about having a heel spur.

Medical Plantar Fasciitis Treatments

Our doctors might recommend medical treatments to relieve plantar fasciitis including:

  • Custom bracing or splinting to hold your foot in the best position to heal, especially while you sleep
  • Physical therapy to improve mobility and build strength and flexibility in the foot and calf
  • Integrated medicine to relieve pain naturally, including massage, chiropractic and acupuncture
  • Training to improve athletic form, which in turn can reduce pain (get a performance running assessment)
  • Injections for joint pain (sometimes called cortisone shots) to relieve pain while your foot heals

If nonsurgical methods don’t work, surgery might be the best way to eliminate the cause of plantar fasciitis. Learn more about surgical treatments for foot and ankle pain at Aurora.

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