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Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the toes and the heel. It supports the foot’s natural arch and acts as a shock absorber for the rest of the foot, ankle and lower leg. Repetitive stress or excessive tension on the plantar fascia can cause small tears to develop in the tissue which also becomes inflamed and irritated resulting in the condition plantar fasciitis.

What are the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

The most common symptom of Plantar Fasciitis is a stabbing pain in the heel. This pain is usually worse in the morning or after long periods of rest, but it tends to get better after a few minutes of walking. Pain is also typically worse after periods of exercise.

How is Plantar Fasciitis treated?

90% of patients with Plantar Fasciitis will improve within 12 months as a result of conservative treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Rest
  • Stretching
  • Ice
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Orthotics such as heel cups/lifts

In rare cases, surgery may be recommended if the condition does not improve after 12 months of conservative treatment.

Treatments to avoid:

Do not immediately get injections or surgery for plantar fasciitis.  Injections should be done sparingly to prevent rupture of the plantar fascia, which cannot be repaired once ruptured.  Likewise, a surgical release of the plantar fascia, when not indicated, can lead to collapse of the arch.  Because a heel spur is not the cause of the pain, removal of the heel spur will not help plantar fasciitis.  Oral steroids are not recommended as first-line treatment of plantar fasciitis because of the systemic risks; there are more specific treatment options in most cases.

Seek attention from a specialist if you are concerned that the pain is worsening, or if is not responsive to these treatments.  Other sources of heel pain can include stress fractures, and these should be ruled out.

More information can be found at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Plantar Fasciitis.

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Dr. Alexis E. Dixon

About the author

Dr. Alexis E. Dixon Dr. Alexis Dixon is an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist at DISC where she commonly diagnoses and treats arthritis of the foot and ankle, tendinitis and tears of the peroneal, Achilles, and posterior tibial tendons, flatfoot deformity, osteochondral lesions, plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus/bunions, hallux rigidus/arthritis of the great toe, deformities of the lesser toes, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, ankle sprains and turf toe, among all other injuries of the foot and ankle, including sports and degenerative injuries. Read more articles by Dr. Alexis E. Dixon.

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