Do you wake up in the morning with a stabbing foot pain as you take your first steps? Maybe the pain starts to lessen as you walk around and get moving. Or perhaps you feel a stabbing pain in your heels after you’ve been on your feet for a long period of time. Stabbing pain in your heels commonly occurs due to a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue along the bottom of your foot that connects the heel bone to your toes. If the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, it can cause this uncomfortable, stabbing pain after long periods of resting or standing. Causes of plantar fasciitis can vary, though the signs and symptoms typically involve heel and foot pain. Talk to your Jonesboro doctor if you experience this kind of stabbing pain in your heels and learn what treatment options can help you experience lasting relief.
How the Plantar Fascia Works
The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs beneath the skin on the sole of your foot. Ligaments attach bone to bone and help hold structures together, providing stability and support. The plantar fascia connects the heel bone and the toes with its strong, fibrous tissue. You get arch support from the plantar fascia that runs along the bottom of each foot. When you walk, this long, thin band of tissue helps absorb the shock from rolling your foot from heel to toe. When standing, the plantar fascia helps provide a stable base and hold the arches of your feet in place. You typically would not even recognize all the work the plantar fascia does to support the arch and foot mechanics until there is an issue. However, when you put too much pressure on your feet without proper arch support or padding, you risk aggravating the plantar fascia.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
Increased pressure and stress on the plantar fascia can lead to an injury or issue like plantar fasciitis. Repeated movements that put pressure on the soles of your feet can lead to small tears in this fibrous tissue. Over time, these small tears can develop into larger tears that cause irritation and inflammation. Because of the stress we put on our feet each day as we walk around, take a flight of stairs, or jog around the neighborhood, sometimes the plantar fascia can become irritated. Even with a small tear or injury, the body will respond naturally by promoting inflammation in the area where the injury occurred. Inflammation, even as a natural response, can lead to heel pain and stiffness of this important ligament in your foot. A common misconception is that plantar fasciitis is also caused by heel spurs, though doctors have disproven this theory.
Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis
In some cases, the cause of your plantar fasciitis may be unknown. However, certain risk factors may make you more susceptible to experiencing plantar fasciitis.
If you have a demanding job that requires you to be on your feet for many hours at a time, you could be at greater risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Standing on your feet for long periods can put additional pressure and stress on the plantar fascia providing stability and support along the bottom of your foot.
Repetitive impacts with activities like long-distance running can also make you more prone to developing plantar fasciitis. When you run, the repetitive pressure on the soles of your feet can cause the ligament to overstretch or lead to small tears that become bigger problems with repeated stress.
Dance and Aerobics
Ballet, dancing, and aerobics also expect a lot of stress and pressure on the feet. Repetitive moves as a ballet dancer or while performing step aerobics can put added strain on the plantar fascia. Tight, overworked lower leg muscles can also put additional stress on the plantar fascia and worsen your plantar fasciitis pain.
Structural Foot Issues
People with high arches or flat feet are more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. If you have high arches, your footprint in the sand might only show your toes, the ball of your foot, and then your heel. If you have flat feet, your footprint may cover the entire space with little to no gap. Both flat feet and high arches stress the plantar fascia into working harder and make it more susceptible to irritation or injury.
You might be surprised to learn that unsupportive shoes can also lead to plantar fasciitis. If you wear shoes with little to no arch support or cushioning, you are subjecting the soles of your feet to a lot of stress. Supportive shoes really make a difference in how your foot functions properly when there is plenty of room for your toes to wiggle. Shoes like high heels or flip-flops can put unnecessary strain on the plantar fascia.
Additional weight can add to the stress on your feet and the plantar fascia that support them. Sudden weight gain can also put you at greater risk for plantar fascia because it puts increased pressure on the ligaments.
Women who are pregnant commonly experience plantar fasciitis in late-stage pregnancy. As the fetus grows, you may start to change the distribution of weight across your feet without even realizing it. Many women experience an increase in shoe size while pregnant and might not consider shoes with necessary support immediately.
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
The most common complaint of people with plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain along the heel and bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis can affect one or both feet at once, depending on the cause. You may notice a stabbing pain that occurs mainly along the base of your heel and extends into the arch of your foot. The pain can also feel like a burning or aching sensation, especially when you stretch your foot like pointing or flexing your toes. Most people experience increased pain in the morning while taking the first steps out of bed. When you lie down to sleep at night, you remove pressure from the feet, so the first few steps of added pressure and weight can trigger painful symptoms. Plantar fasciitis can also cause stiffness in your heel and increased irritation during and after certain activities.
Diagnosing Plantar Fasciitis
Your Jonesboro doctor can diagnose plantar fasciitis based on your symptoms, medical history, and a physical examination. During a physical examination, your doctor will gently test for any tenderness along the bottom of your foot. Your doctor may press along the plantar fascia while you move your foot to note what motions cause the pain to worsen or lessen. They may ask you to perform a series of stretches like pointing or flexing your toes to see how your foot responds. They will also look to see if you have a high arch or flat feet. In some cases, your doctor may want to watch your gait to assess foot mechanics and how you distribute pressure on your feet while you walk.
A medical history can also help inform your doctor of any risk factors that may make it more likely for you to experience plantar fasciitis. In some cases, additional tests may not be necessary. However, your doctor may want to run diagnostic imaging tests like an X-ray or MRI to rule out other potential causes if you experience severe pain. An X-ray shows detailed images of the bones and structure of the foot, which can help detect a bone spur or stress fracture. An MRI detects soft tissue injuries that may not appear on an X-ray. Diagnostic imaging tools frequently help rule out a potential diagnosis with similar symptoms.
Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis
Treatment options for plantar fasciitis can range from home treatments for mild discomfort to surgical options when other treatments have failed to resolve your pain.
Home remedies like R.I.C.E. can help to significantly reduce your pain with plantar fasciitis. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. The best thing you can do for overstressed and tired feet is to get off them. Take a break from activities like running or dancing that may aggravate your plantar fasciitis. When you rest, you allow the body’s natural healing process to begin. Icing the area will also help reduce any inflammation and provide a soothing numbing effect to help with the pain. A wrap or brace on your foot can provide compression and support so you do not overtax your foot while engaging in simple movements around the house. Finally, elevating the foot can help reduce blood flow to the area and offer relief.
Anti-inflammatory medications you can get over the counter may help with managing the pain of plantar fasciitis. You can also use cold compresses on your feet, especially if you have been on your feet for a long period of time. In more serious cases of plantar fasciitis, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections that go directly into the plantar fascia to reduce your pain.
Braces and supports can help provide better support for your arches. These types of splints can also help hold your foot in a certain position, like night splints for while you sleep. Other assistive devices like a boot cast can help immobilize your foot and reduce pressure on the foot while the plantar fascia heals. Changing out your footwear to more supportive options will also help reduce the pain and risk of plantar fasciitis. Replace your worn-out athletic shoes and try arch supports or orthotics with shoes you tend to wear more often. Soft heel pads for your shoes can help provide additional support and help absorb shock while you walk or run.
A physical therapist can teach you stretches and exercises to help stretch and strengthen the plantar fascia and other supportive tissues. Sometimes, stretching and strengthening the Achilles tendon and leg muscles will provide better overall support for your feet. During physical therapy, you may also learn how to use athletic taping to provide better support for your feet while you engage in activities like long-distance running, ballet, or aerobics. Tight muscles can aggravate plantar fasciitis, and stretching those muscles can help relieve pain. Physical therapy will also provide additional treatment options like soft tissue mobilization, therapeutic massage, and other ways to effectively decrease inflammation around the plantar fascia.
If nonsurgical treatments cannot relieve your pain from plantar fasciitis after one year, then your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery for plantar fasciitis is rare, but there are a few options available to you. One type of surgery is known as a plantar fascia release, where the surgeon cuts part of the ligament to help relieve tension. A gastrocnemius recession is a surgical procedure to lengthen the calf muscles, which can help you flex your feet more effectively. After any surgery for plantar fasciitis, your doctor will recommend physical therapy to support your recovery and rehabilitation.
Visit AICA Orthopedics in Jonesboro to get started on effective treatment options to relieve your plantar fasciitis. Our team of doctors includes orthopedists, physical therapists, and chiropractors who can provide you with comprehensive care and solutions to resolve your plantar fasciitis. We will talk to you about nonsurgical options to help manage and relieve your pain. We also offer diagnostic imaging tools like X-rays and MRIs in the office, so you can get the scans you need and meet with your doctor in one convenient location. Before you resume your regularly scheduled marathon training or walk around a theme park for a whole weekend, invest in the right shoes and supports for your feet. You can also talk to our doctors about recommendations for footwear and support to help relieve and prevent plantar fasciitis.