1 out of 10 people in the United States experiences heel pain at some point during their lives. More than 1 million visits per year to healthcare professionals are attributed to heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis. It is estimated that the annual cost of treatment for plantar fasciitis is somewhere between $200 and $400 million dollars.
The Plantar Fascia
Plantar means bottom of the foot and fascia is connective tissue that attaches to the heel and ball of the foot. When the fascia becomes swollen and inflamed, the term fasciitis is used. “Itis” means inflammation. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. It occurs when the fascia is stretched. When the fascia is stretched it becomes irritated, swollen and inflamed and can tear, causing stabbing heel pain and adhesion or scar tissue formation in the fascia.
There are many different factors that contribute to the painful foot disorder known as plantar fasciitis. Being on your feet for extended periods of time is thought to be the leading cause of plantar fasciitis. Constant compression of the fascia results in inflammation, tearing and painful adhesion formation. Excessive pronation (flat feet) occurs when the foot turns inward and the normal arch in the foot drops. This exposes the fascia to increased wear and tear and results in inflammation and pain. Tight calf muscles can make it difficult to flex the foot and bring the toes up toward the shin can also lead to dysfunction in the foot and fascia. People who are overweight and pregnant women experience a higher incidence of plantar fasciitis due to excessive weight on the fascia. High arches causing the fascia to shorten and tighten can also result in plantar fasciitis. Improper foot wear and a recent increase in activity can also result in swelling, inflammation and pain in the plantar fascia. It is also believed that people with achilles tendonitis experience a higher incidence of plantar fasciitis.
Treatment Of Plantar Fasciitis
There are different treatment options available. It is important to address the causes first then make changes accordingly. Icing the arch of the foot and heel using a frozen water bottle is a good starting point. Gently roll the bottle under the foot and massage the inflamed fascia. A tennis ball can be substituted and more pressure can be applied to help break up adhesions. Stretching tight calf muscles can alleviate tension in the achilles tendon allowing the fascia in the foot to relax. Soft tissue manual therapy techniques such as Active Release Techniques is highly effective in removing adhesions and promoting healthy tissue regrowth. Chiropractic adjustments to the feet can help remove fixations and promote proper function. Orthotics can correct feet that over-pronate and should always be taken into consideration when dealing with a debilitating condition such as plantar fasciitis. It is also important to reduce your activity level when you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis to prevent exacerbation of your current symptoms and any further damage to the fascia. People that are obese or overweight need to take necessary actions pertaining to their diet first, then address the feet after.
We tend to overlook our feet. Constant neglect can lead to foot dysfunction and a great deal of pain and suffering. Plantar fasciitis affects close to 1 million people each year. Without taking necessary precautions or receiving adequate treatment, plantar fasciitis can progress to a chronic, painful and debilitating condition. If you or someone you know is suffering from heel pain, or pain in the arch of the foot, contact a licensed medical professional that has experience in this area, e.g. chiropractor with experience in extremities, podiatrist.