Heel pain can be caused by many conditions, one of these conditions is plantar fasciitis
Definition of plantar fasciitis
A condition caused from inflammation of the ligament that attaches the heel to the toes
Anatomy of the plantar fascia
It is a musculoskeletal structure that is made up of of thick white fibrous fibers.
The plantar fascia extends from the the heel bone, then divides into five branches that insert onto the heads of the metatarsal bones.
What is its function?
The plantar fascia is active from heel strike to toe off and acts as a stabilizing mechanism for your arch.
It also causes flexion at the 1st metatarsal head at toe off to allow progression of the foot forward.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
The main cause of this type of heel pain is inflammation of the plantar fascia. The inflammation can occur at the origin of the ligament at the heel or along the length of the ligament.
Trauma or stress on the ligament results in an inflammatory reaction at the point of injury.
Inflammation is your body’s way of healing an injury. However, the plantar fascia has very poor blood supply which often results in healing factors not getting to the right part of the injured structure.
As the body attempts to heal the structure there is fluid build up. This fluid is usually filled with the by products of healing and has no nutritional value for the tissue. Due to poor circulation remains stuck in the tissue causing more irritation and inflammation. This cycle inflammation continues without end resulting in sever pain and swelling in the heel.
The first line of treatment is to reduce the inflammation and pain.
This can be done by following “RICEN” which stands for:
REST – reduce strain on the ligament, this doesn’t mean you should quit exercise but you can switch to low impact activities.
ICE – icing the affected area helps reduce inflammation and swelling as it reduces the tissues metabolism thereby making less inflammatory proteins.
COMPRESSION – use supportive bandages or strapping to apply light pressure to the area to force out fluid and waste from the affected area.
ELEVATION – propping the foot up on a pillow helps improve blood flow back to the heart which reduces swelling.
NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY medication – these are medications that reduces the amount of inflammatory proteins the body makes to reduce the inflammatory response.
What if the pain doesn’t go away?
Should the pain not improve, medical advise needs to be sought.
A podiatrist can assist you assess the foot for the cause of the inflammation.
The podiatrist may prescribe stretches and exercises to assist healing and pain reduction.
Persistent pain may require assessment and modification of shoes or the manufacture of a foot orthotic.
See your podiatrist if you struggle with painful foot problems!