Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of chronic pain beneath the heel. As revealed by a national study on the volume of ambulatory care visits, in the United States approximately 1 million patients per year are diagnosed with this disorder of the foot.
The plantar fascia is a long, thin ligament that lies directly beneath the skin on the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel to the front of the foot and supports its arch. Plantar fascia’s primary function is to absorb the high stresses and strains we place on our feet.
However, sometimes we place too much pressure on this tissue, and the body’s natural reaction to this excessive stress is inflammation, resulting in the heel pain and stiffness characterized by plantar fasciitis.
To protect the heel’s surrounding tissues from repetitive damage, cells that specialize in forming bone migrate to the site and start depositing calcium. In chronic cases of inflammation, a bony ganglion (spur) can form. These are called heel spurs.
Several risk factors are associated with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. Experts commonly cite:
- running, jogging and jumping on hard surfaces
- poorly fitted shoes
- excess weight and obesity
Since most of us usually walk on hard surfaces such as concrete and wear rigid business shoes or shoes with heels, the movement of the feet is extremely restricted in our daily life.
In the long-term perspective, this could have severe consequences. In response to prolonged pain over many days, weeks, and months, the body develops compensating mechanisms to relieve the painful area resulting in more stress on the foot that doesn't hurt.
Over time this evolves to limping and therefore, even more, the strain on other joints (the knee, hip, back ...). Thus, the long-term effect is a vicious circle of pain, leading to overcompensation, causing increased strain and more pain...
Conventional treatments include anti-inflammatory agents, corticosteroid injections, and even surgical interventions.
Hopefully, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 90% of patients with plantar fasciitis will improve within 10 months of starting nonsurgical treatment methods.
However, to succeed in the long run, we need to treat not only the symptoms but the real cause of the pain - the inflammation itself.
So, what can we do? Here are the 6 crucial elements for successful treatment of plantar fasciitis:
1. Be gentle
When the plantar tendon is inflamed, it is important to be gentle with the affected point so that it can heal. Wearing shoes with a super soft supple sole that absorbs any impact will allow the feet and joints to rest. Decreasing athletic activities where the feet pound on hard surfaces should also be considered.
2. Achieve a natural rollover of the foot
Give back full freedom of movement to the foot. It is important that the foot rolls over and that the shortened/stiffened musculature and tendons are mobilized. Wearing shoes with a soft, elastic sole allows the foot to achieve natural rollover which improves the healing process by contributing to a good circulation of the plantar tendon. It’s advised to focus on exercising slowly and taking small steps to prevent further irritation.
The natural rollover results in gentle mobilization and stretching of the plantar tendon. Experts agree that only therapies with stretching and mobilization alleviate the inflammation and relieve the pain. In soft and elastic shoes your calf muscles are stretched with every step, which reduces pressure in the long term. Gentle mobilization is achieved.
4. Increase blood circulation to remove inflammatory substances
Lively movement in the ankle activates the blood flow pumping fresh blood to the heel bone. Circulation, in turn, removes inflammatory substances from the tissue and promotes healing by providing a good supply of oxygen.
5. Provide a good supply of oxygen to the musculature
Increased oxygen circulation removes inflammatory substances from the tissue and promotes healing. The cause of the plantar tendon problem is thereby treated.
6. Be consistent
As we step and our heel strikes the ground a significant amount of tension is placed on the fascia, which causes microtrauma. When the therapeutic device is a shoe, the inflammation is treated with each step we take.
Sum up: small steps beat big problems
The cause of the most common heel and foot pain experienced by millions of Americans is simply the reaction of our body to the hard surfaces we usually walk on every day.
Fortunately, surgery can usually be avoided by following stretching and gentle mobilization therapy. However, occasional exercises will not lead to successful treatment.
To beat plantar fasciitis, we need to transform this practice into a habit. Building healthy habits can be hard but keeping the daily routine is becoming easier today thanks to technology advancements in the therapeutic shoe industry.
Soft and elastic therapeutic shoes are becoming increasingly available and using them daily will help with every single step.
Disclaimer: this information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice or to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON THIS WEBSITE.