Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis 101: Signs, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common conditions that cause pain in the bottom of the heel. Find out its symptoms, causes and the treatment available in Malaysia.

by Katherine Khaw

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that affects the bottom of your foot and causes heel pain. The word “plantar” is related to the sole of the foot while the word “fasciitis” is defined as the inflammation of the muscle or organ. Then, this is a degenerative condition in which the thick band of tissue (known as a fascia) loses its elasticity or resilience. The fascia is attached to the heel bone and to the base of one’s toes.

Therefore, it plays an important role in supporting the arch of the foot and walking mechanism. However, this is a common issue among athletes, especially runners.

In this article, it is time to discover the signs, causes, diagnosis and more for plantar fasciitis.

Signs & Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

First, one must identify the signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis. The inflammation of the fascia may be felt with dull or stabbing pain. Typically, the symptoms include:

  • Pain around the bottom of the heel
  • More pain after a session of exercising
  • Pain in the arch of the foot
  • More pain in the morning or trying to stand after sitting for a long time
  • A swollen or hurt heel
  • Continuous pain for months at the bottom of the heel
  • A tight Achilles tendon (the part that connects a person’s calf muscles to the heel)

Occasionally, pain may be felt in the toes or lead to ankle pain (should a nerve be irritated or triggered). Back pain may also be a side result of this. While it is not entirely certain why back pain happens, the likely explanation is due to the change of posture to accommodate the hurt foot. This may incur muscle strain and ache in the back.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

What causes plantar fasciitis? When the muscle in the arch of the foot is overly stretched or pressured, tiny tears may be found on its surface. Then, pain and inflammation may happen in the person’s body. 

Sometimes there is no clear cause in some cases, but you are at a greater chance of getting plantar fasciitis if the following risk factors are applicable to you:

  • You have high-arch or flat feet
  • You wear shoes that may strain your feet, such as high heels, or shoes that are worn with thin soles
  • You are newly engaged in a running or intensive walking program
  • You are an athlete that engages in sports like running or jumping
  • You have a tight Achilles tendon
  • You walk or place your foot in unusual positions
  • You exercise without stretching your calves
  • You spend many hours standing
  • You have obesity (70% of patients with plantar fasciitis have obesity)
  • You are currently pregnant

Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis

After experiencing the signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis, you would like to confirm your condition. As such, make your way to the clinic so that a doctor can run some tests for you. You may expect the following procedures:

  • A physical checkup – Your healthcare provider will do a check on your feet after hearing your medical history. If the tenderness and the exact location is pain caused after setting pressure on the plantar fascia, plantar fasciitis is probably the issue. Nonetheless, other questions and physical checks on the foot are required to ensure it is not a symptom of a different foot problem. Redness or swelling will be considered in the diagnosis.
  • Strength evaluation – Your muscles and nerves will be evaluated by checking the following: reflexes, muscle tone, sense of touch and sight, coordination, and balance.
  • Imaging tests – In most cases, imaging tests would not be necessary. But if your healthcare provider has a few conditions to rule out, they may ask for an X-ray or MRI. These would be able to check for bone fractures, arthritis, or fractures.

Treating Plantar Fasciitis

Should you be diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, there are treatment options available. Most people will recover over a span of several months with moderate treatment, such as rest, icing the affected area, stretching, and avoiding activities that may cause further injury. This depends on the intensity of the condition.

Otherwise, these are some of the treatment options available for treating plantar fasciitis:

  • Use of medications – Pain relievers may be used, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Alexe). These would be used to ease the pain and inflammation caused by the condition. Usually, these would not be taken for more than a month, therefore advice is needed from your healthcare provider.
  • Use of a night splint – By using this, you can prevent the overnight shortening of the calf muscles and plantar fascia. When you sleep, your feet naturally point downwards. With this, you can maintain the length of the plantar fascia. It is usually painless and comfortable to wear.
  • Walking boots, canes or crutches – Some of these may be given to you during your recovery in order to avoid moving your affected foot, or prevent you from putting the full weight on it. Off-the-shelf or custom-fitted arch supports may also be suggested to you to distribute your foot pressure more evenly.
  • Physical therapy – Stretching is a necessary treatment for plantar fasciitis. This stretching should be focused on the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon area. For this, you would need to engage with a physical therapist in order to identify what kind of stretching exercises you can repeat at home safely, several times a day. Doing this would strengthen the leg muscles and make your ankle more stable. Here are some exercises that you can potentially try out.
  • Outpatient treatments – When the pain is not subsiding, aside from the above methods, you may consider other treatments.
  • Steroid injections – Sometimes when there is no improvement after about two months, your doctor may prescribe steroids to be injected. The purpose of this is to reduce inflammation.
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) – This is an uncommon procedure in which low-energy or high-energy shock waves are channelled to a specific area. This process is thought to improve the recovery process as it creates microscopic trauma in the body. Soundwaves are bombarded to the body to trigger healing within the ligament. Nonetheless, side effects such as bruises, swelling, pain and numbness may occur.

Do I Need Surgery for Plantar Fasciitis?

Surgery is only considered after other treatment methods do not seem to work, or there is no progress in the healing. In severe cases, surgery may be carried out.

There are two options:

  • Gastrocnemius recession – In this case, the goal is to lengthen the gastroc tendon (part of the Achilles tendon), therefore, it lengthens the calf muscles. This surgery may be recommended for patients who are unable to hold their foot in a neutral position, such as a 90-degree angle to the leg. With this, there is less stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Plantar fascia release – Part of the plantar fascia is cut to relieve the tension, which should reduce inflammation. However, this weakens the arch of the foot, leading to possible loss of full function.

How Can I Prevent Plantar Fasciitis?

Prevention of plantar fasciitis lies majorly in the lifestyle habits you adopt. Here are some of the key aspects to look into to avoid this condition:

  • Wear supportive shoes. Whether you are using them for daily walking or athletic purposes, don shoes that have proper arch support.
  • Warm-up exercises first. Before engaging in a run, stretch your calves, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia. In addition, try to incorporate low-impact exercises to balance out, such as cycling or swimming.
  • Environment matters. Try to run on soft surfaces in order to reduce the pressure and impact on the bottom of your feet, especially if you are doing long distances.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Keeping at a weight that is suitable is vital in order to reduce too much pressure on your plantar fascia.

It is necessary to curb plantar fascia as complications may occur over time. Aside from chronic heel pain, you may cause injury to your legs, knees, hips or back.

Opting For Home Physiotherapy

Perhaps travelling for physiotherapy at a centre or hospital is not feasible for you or a loved one. Homage has qualified physiotherapists that can handle your needs. This allows you to recover from the comfort of your home and receive personalised care. Homage is able to provide a free consultation to assess the suitability of the required arrangements. Generally, physiotherapy helps with injuries, joint mobility, and other improvements. The kind of movements and exercises required to be carried out will also be assessed by the physiotherapist, as it may differ from one person to another.

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References

Cleveland Clinic (2022). Plantar Fasciitis [Article]. Retrieved 25 August 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14709-plantar-fasciitis .

Healthline (2022). Plantar Fasciitis [Article]. Retrieved 26 August 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/plantar-fasciitis .

Homage (2022). Book a Home Physiotherapy Session in Malaysia [Article]. Retrieved 29 August 2022, from https://www.homage.com.my/services/physiotherapy/ .

Homage (2022). Home Physiotherapy: Benefits and What to Expect [Article]. Retrieved 29 August 2022, from https://www.homage.com.my/health/home-physiotherapy-benefits/.

John Hopkins Medicine (2022). Plantar Fasciitis [Article]. Retrieved 25 August 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/plantar-fasciitis .

Mayo Clinic (2022). Plantar fasciitis [Article]. Retrieved 26 August 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354851 .

Phui Lin, S.T. (2019). Physiotherapy For Plantar Fascitis [Article]. Retrieved 29 August 2022, from http://www.myhealth.gov.my/en/physiotherapy-for-plantar-fascitis/ .

WebMD (2021). What Is Plantar Fasciitis? [Article]. Retrieved 29 August 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/understanding-plantar-fasciitis-basics .

About the Writer
Katherine Khaw
Katherine is an avid reader, finding joy in halls of words. Aside from the imagination wandering in worlds not here, she enjoys stargazing and gardening. In her heart of hearts, she aspires to be a writer, and to be more than mere dust.
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