20 Apr Risk Factors Associated with Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the medical name for a condition where a thick band of tissue, called fascia, that covers the heel bone of the foot and connects to the toes becomes inflamed. This condition is one of the most common causes of heel pain in humans.
Inflammation of the fascia occurs when the normally shock-absorbent tissue experiences increased and persistent tension and stress applied to it. As a result, small tears develop in the plantar fascia which eventually leads to irritation and inflammation of the tissue.
Causes and Risk Factors
Most of the time, the cause of plantar fasciitis isn’t clear but there are certain risk factors that can predispose one to develop the condition. These may include:
- Performing certain types of exercises such as those where increased levels of stress are applied to the heel bone of the foot as well as the surrounding tissues. These can include ballet dancing, ballistic jumping activities, aerobic dancing, or long-distance running.
- Working at jobs that require one to stand for longer than usual periods of time such as nursing and teaching, or those where one has to stand on hard surfaces such as factory and construction work.
- Being between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Having issues such as flat or high foot arches or even having an otherwise abnormal way of walking can cause one to favor distributing weight on a particular limb.
- Being overweight or obese results in increased weight being distributed to the heels of the feet.
Plantar fasciitis classically presents with:
- A stabbing pain that occurs over the bottom of the foot around the area of the heel.
- A pain that is worse after waking up and taking one’s first steps in the morning. The pain can also be triggered by standing for prolonged periods of time or when standing up suddenly from a sitting or lying position.
- Pain that is worse after performing physical activity and not during physical exertion.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that can resolve adequately with the use of conservative measures and therapies for up to a few months such as:
- Resting the affected foot so as not to further exert pressure on the inflamed tissue.
- Applying ice packs or cold compresses to the heel to help reduce inflammation.
- Using over-the-counter pain medications such as the anti-inflammatories ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Referral to a physical therapist will help to provide exercises to learn how to stretch the plantar fascia and to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg to stabilize the heel and ankle.
- Night splints can be used to help stretch the calf muscle and arch of the affected foot while one sleeps. This device aids in holding the plantar fascia in a position where it can stretch.
- An orthotist can prescribe devices such as custom-fitted arch supports which help to distribute pressure to the feet in a more even manner.
If these therapies and treatments are ineffective, then other measures can be recommended such as:
- Steroid and local anesthetic injections directly into the tender fascia.
- Extracorporeal shock wave therapy where ultrasound waves are used to stimulate the healing process.
- The Tenex procedure which is a minimally invasive method to remove scar tissue of the plantar fascia.
If these therapies are ineffective or the symptoms experienced by the patient are severe, then surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the bone may have to be considered.