The plantar fascia is a band of tough, fibrous tissue that spans the bottom of the foot, extending from the heel to the ball of the foot beneath the toes. Its function is to support the arch and the midfoot region while also helping the foot to remain flexible and stable while walking and running. Sometimes this tiny band becomes strained and overstretched, resulting in tiny tears and other tissue damage that can cause inflammation and pain. This condition is called plantar fasciitis, and it’s more common among older people, people who spend long periods of time on their feet, people whose feet are subjected to a lot of repetitive impacts like runners and dancers, and people who are obese. Some injuries can also cause plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs (bony deposits along the edge of the heel bone) can also cause the tissue to become inflamed and irritated.
Plantar fasciitis causes recurrent pain along the bottom and the side of the foot and around the heel area. Often, this pain subsides after a period of walking once the plantar fascia warms up and becomes more flexible, returning again after another period of inactivity. Many people find their symptoms are especially pronounced when getting up in the morning.
Plantar fasciitis can usually be diagnosed during an office visit with a hands-on evaluation and a review of symptoms. Passive and active exercises can also help rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms. Mild plantar fasciitis may respond to oral pain relievers, but usually, additional treatment are required, including gentle stretching exercises using special splints, injections of corticosteroid medications to reduce inflammation and custom orthotics to provide better support to the midfoot region. Other treatment options may also be available. Early intervention is important for achieving faster relief from pain.
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