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The HEELing Process: Plantar Fasciitis

In a previous blog, “A Step in the Right Direction: The Basics of Plantar Fasciitis,” we examined the causes and symptoms commonly associated with plantar fasciitis.

As a quick refresher, plantar fasciitis is the painful inflammation of a thick band of tissues, known as the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes.

Today, we’re going to revisit this topic and discuss some general treatment options for this injury.

Rest – One way to relieve pain associated with plantar fasciitis is to rest your feet and limit the daily activities that are the cause of your heel pain. If you can, avoid walking or running on extremely hard surfaces such as concrete, and wear supportive shoes.

NSAIDs – The main cause of plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia. To alleviate this pain and inflammation, try a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as Advil, ibuprofen or Motrin. NSAIDs are also available in cream form, which can be applied directly on the area of pain.

Orthotics – Your primary care physician may prescribe heel cups, cushions or custom-fitted arch supports, otherwise known as orthotics, to help evenly distribute pressure throughout your foot. Additionally, night splints can be used to stretch your calf and the arch of your foot while you sleep to keep the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon in a lengthened, stretched position.

Stretch – Performing simple stretches for the toes and calves throughout the day, especially in the morning, can help ligaments become more flexible. Furthermore, stretching can also strengthen the muscles that support the arch as well as stabilize the ankle and heel. Your doctor can recommend stretches that you can do safely.

When more basic treatment options prove to be ineffective, your primary care physician may suggest the following:

Physical therapy – This form of treatment may be helpful for those who suffer from problems with foot mechanics such as a tight Achilles tendon.

Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) – This procedure uses sound waves that are directed to the point of the heel pain to stimulate healing. ESWT is commonly used for those suffering from chronic plantar fasciitis that hasn’t responded to more conservative treatment.

Surgery – Typically surgery is not required; however, some people need surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. Surgery is most often an option for those with severe pain.

The overarching goal of plantar fasciitis treatment is to relieve heel pain and inflammation, allow small tears in the plantar fascia ligament to heal, improve flexibility and strength, and allow you to go back to your normal daily activities.

If you believe that you are suffering the effects of plantar fasciitis, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. Treatment that begins at the first sign of symptoms is more successful than when treatment is delayed.

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