What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar Fasciitis is a condition of the foot also known as policeman’s heel, heel pain, and jogger’s heel.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue on the plantar (bottom) of the foot which helps to support the arch. The fascia ligament runs from the heel bone and connects with the top of the metatarsal bones (the five long bones in your foot).
Continued, repetitive movements such as running can cause the fascia ligament to overstretch. This over-stretching can lead to inflammation which causes pain in the heel, otherwise known as plantar fasciitis.
What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?
Symptoms normally appear gradually but after several weeks the pain can become more consistent. Although no bruising or swelling may be evident, pain can occur when you touch or lean on the heel area.
Symptoms can include:
- Sharp, shooting pain around the heel or along the arch of the foot.
- Pain that is worse first thing in the morning or after long periods of immobility or rest, but eases after a few minutes.
- Pain can increase following long periods of standing, walking or running.
- Tenderness in the heel area.
What are the risk factors or causes of plantar fasciitis?
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing policeman’s heel. These include:
- Age: Plantar fasciitis is most common between the ages of 40 and 60.
- Certain types of exercise: Activities that place a lot of stress on your heel and attached tissue, such as running, jumping and dancing, can contribute to plantar fasciitis.
- Foot Mechanics: Having excessively high or low arches or a previous injury in the foot can cause excessive stress on the plantar fascia tissue.
- An increased BMI: Being overweight puts extra stress on your lower limbs and plantar fascia.
- Certain occupations: Factory workers, nurses, teachers and those who spend long hours standing on hard surfaces can damage their plantar fascia.
What is the best treatment for plantar fasciitis?
There is no singular, best treatment for plantar fasciitis. It requires a combination of regimens as part of the healing process. Conveniently, it is possible to treat plantar fasciitis at home. Used in conjunction with each other, the following three treatments can be easily carried out at home:
- Taking non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen will help to reduce inflammation. (Always check the label for directions or consult a pharmacist for further information before taking any medication).
- Ice – icing the area with an ice pack for ten to twenty minute intervals will also help to reduce the inflammation. (Do not leave the ice pack on the skin for any longer than 20 minutes as it may burn the skin).
- Stretches – stretching the calf muscles will help to release tension on the plantar fascia. An example of an easy stretch for the calves is as follows:
- Stand with arms out stretched and palms flat against a wall.
- Move the right leg backwards ensuring that both feet are still facing towards the wall.
- Bend the left knee, keeping the right leg straight and the heel of that foot on the ground.
- You should feel a stretch in the calf of the right leg.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, relax, then hold for another 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other leg by swapping to move the left leg backward.
- Foot mobilisation therapy – if you have a particularly aggravated case of policeman’s heel, you may need to consult a podiatrist. Along with the home-based treatments above, a podiatrist may suggest a course of foot mobilisation therapy. This treatment helps to improve joint mobility and restores normal movement in the feet and ankles. Foot mobilisation therapy allows the foot to recover naturally, without the use of orthotics/ specialist insoles.
Are orthotics good for plantar fasciitis?
Although some people may benefit from specialist insoles, they should also be advised to perform lower limb strengthening exercises. This is because insoles must be worn in all types of footwear and this continued use of orthotics causes the muscles in the feet to become lazy and weaken.
Before considering the use of insoles to relieve heel pain, you should always consult a podiatrist. This way you can ensure you will receive the correct treatment for your specific condition and prevent further damage to your heel.
How long does it take to recover from plantar fasciitis?
Recovery time from plantar fasciitis varies from patient to patient. What works best for one patient may not suit another. However, the earlier the problem is addressed, the sooner improvements can be made, reducing the negative impact on your quality of life.
If you are suffering from heel pain and require some further advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and speak to one of our fully qualified podiatrists.