If you experience severe pain in the heel of your foot after resting, you may have a condition called plantar fasciitis (fashee-EYE-tis). This is an “overuse injury” affecting the sole, or plantar, of your foot. It occurs when you have inflamed the tissue connecting your heel bone to the base of your toes, called the plantar fascia.
Plantar fasciitis begins as a mild pain at the heel bone that you are most likely to feel after exercise, after arising in the morning, or after taking a break if you are on your feet a lot during the day. Without treatment, the pain gradually progresses and can become severe.
You are more prone to plantar fasciitis if:
- You are overweight
- You have a job that requires a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces
- You are a woman
- You run or walk for exercise
- You have tight calf muscles that limit how far you can flex your ankles
- Your feet are very flat or have very high arches
Without proper treatment, plantar fasciitis can become a chronic condition. Left untreated, this condition may also exacerbate problems of the foot, knee, hip, and back by altering the way you walk.
Initial treatment includes rest, ice treatments and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen. Try to keep weight off your foot until the inflammation subsides. Shoes with shock-absorbing soles or fitted with an orthotic device, like a rubber heel pad, may help. The mainstay of treatment, and a means of lessening the chance of recurrence, is a program of home exercises to stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Your doctor can instruct you in these exercises.
Within about two months of initiating treatment, approximately 90% of people with plantar fasciitis experience significant improvement in their condition. If your condition persists after a few months, your doctor may inject your heel with corticosteroids, which will reduce the inflammation. If you still have symptoms, you may need to wear a walking cast for several weeks or a splint when you sleep. In rare cases, surgery is needed to release the ligament.
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