What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis (or heel pain) is commonly traced to an inflammation on the bottom of the foot. It is caused by inflammation of the connective tissue that stretches from the base of the toes, across the arch of the foot, to the point at which it inserts into the heel bone. Once the ligament gets weak and swollen, you will begin to feel pain on the bottom of the foot.
What Does Heel Pain Feel Like?
It feels like a dull ache most of the time, but when the patient first gets out of the bed in the morning, or when getting up after sitting for a period of time during the day, the pain in the heel is impressive. It almost feels like the heel has been bruised, from falling on a rock barefoot, but it is worse.
What Caused the Heel Pain?
There is a tight ligament (band of fibrous tissue) that stretches across the arch, from the ball of the foot to the heel bone, called the Plantar Fascia. When we walk, our feet have a tendency to roll inward, toward each other, in a motion that we call pronation. When feet pronate, they flatten, stretch out and the arch elongates. This causes excessive pulling on the Plantar Fascia ligament and attachment of the ligament to the heel bone begins to separate. An injury occurs where the ligament progressively tears off of the heel, fiber by fiber. Bleeding occurs next to the bone and inflammatory fluids accumulate between the ligament and the bone, forming a Bursitis, or fluid-filled sack.
Over time, the body lays down scar tissue, in an attempt to "glue" the detached ligament fibers back on to the bottom of the heel bone. Over the course of 3-5 years, the scar tissue calcifies, and this calcium deposit eventually becomes visible on X-Ray as the Heel Spur. This inflammation of this Plantar fascia ligament is called Plantar Fasciitis, and in addition to the Bursitis, is what causes the pain.
Causes of Heel Pain
There are several reasons that this chronic injury can occur. Recent weight gain and increased activity level often start an episode. A person who has been mostly sedentary, who walks a lot at Disney World for 3 days is a prime candidate. A change of shoes from well supporting walking or athletic shoes to floppy sandals can do it. When the arch of the foot collapses or flattens, the Plantar Fascia is stretched, causing the injury where it attaches to the heel bone. Finally, conditions which cause generalized increased inflammation, like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause this.
Treating Heel Pain
There are many treatment options available for heel pain. In most cases, a conservative heel pain treatment is all that's needed and recommended. Treatment such as heel pain stretches, orthotics, physical therapy, proper shoes or painless laser therapy may be enough to treat your heel pain. If you have a severe case, surgical intervention may be required.
How Can Medical Tape Help Plantar Fasciitis?
We know that Plantar fasciitis is caused by the pulling of a ligament called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone in your foot and can be sprained when it is overstretched. This will cause pain on the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis can occur regardless of your weight, or activity and can be treated by decreasing the pull of this ligament when you stand. One of the many therapies that podiatrists provide includes supporting the heel with medical tape. This helps to recreate the arch on the bottom of your foot to decrease the pull of the ligament on your heel bone. When this ligament does not get a chance to pull on your bone, the inflammation and pain will decrease. Medical tape alone cannot rid your body of the inflammation from the plantar fascia injury, but it can aid in recovery and long term support of the ligament. Usually when medical tape is used, it is important to keep the medical tape for 3 days and avoid putting too much pressure on the foot for those three days. Meaning, if you are a regular excersiser, take a 3 day rest. Also, we ask that you avoid getting the tape wet, we have shower covers at our office that you can use when showering to avoid getting the area wet!
Medical tape can support your heel the same way orthotics can, however, orthotics are more beneficial for long-term.
Recurrence is rare after treatment, if the patient continues to employ good mechanical foot control by continuing to wear orthotics and good supportive walking or athletic shoes. Recovery is rapid and the success rate is better than 90%.
Who Is At Risk?
- Individuals ages 40-60 are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis
- Activities/exercises that put too much strain or pressure on your heel can cause onset plantar fasciitis
- Obesity can cause plantar fasciitis because of the excess pounds putting strain on your feet
- Being on your feet all day, if you have a job that requires this of you then you will most likely begin to feel heel pain, if there isn't a way for you to not be on your feet all day, orthotics may be the right move for you.
Do not ignore heel pain! Please call our office at 732-968-3833 in Piscataway or 908-874-8030 in Hillsborough, so that we can help end that heel pain!