Each step that you take puts a certain amount of shock on your body, particularly your lower body. Although the arches of your feet are designed to spread out this shock to minimize damage, sometimes the tissue that helps support these arches can get damaged, leading to a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
The Plantar Fascia
As FamilyDoctor.org explains, the plantar fascia is a tough band of connective tissue similar to a tendon that is connected to your heel and the bones in the ball of your foot. The plantar fascia helps form the arch of your foot; the shorter the fascia, the higher the arch. Plantar fascia is protected by a pad of fat which helps absorb physical shock that results from walking.
Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for inflammation or irritation of the plantar fascia. The Mayo Clinic explains that the plantar fascia can develop small tears or rips as a result of increases tension along this band of tissue. This can also be the result of the natural thinning of the fat pad that occurs with age. These small tears lead to the inflammation that is characteristic of this condition.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a stabbing pain in the heel. The pain is usually worse when walking immediately after waking or long periods of rest. It can also occur after standing in one place or sitting for an extended period of time. The pain usually develops gradually and may occur only in one foot. Medline Plus, a website of the National Institutes of Health, notes that plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed based on the tenderness, swelling and redness on the bottom of the feet, coupled with X-rays that rule out other potential sources of the pain.
Plantar fasciitis is common among runners due to the extra strain that they put on their feet. Ballet dancing and dance aerobics can also cause plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60 and is more likely to afflict women. Having an abnormally high or low arch, poorly fitting shoes and a job that requires you to be on your feet for long periods of time can also increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin can be used to relieve the pain and inflammation. Corticosteroids can also be injected or applied to the affected area to reduce inflammation. Physical therapy, night splints and arch supports can also be used to treat the inflammation of the fascia. These treatments are often effective but can take several months to work. In extreme cases, surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the bone in the heel can be performed to relieve pain.
About this Author
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals. He is an M.D./Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago. He has a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, where he won an award for excellence in undergraduate science writing.