The plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that extends across the sole of the foot from the heel to the ball of the foot, providing support and flexibility for the arch and midfoot region. Plantar fasciitis develops when this band becomes irritated or inflamed, resulting in pain and aching along the bottom and side of the foot. Plantar fasciitis becomes more common with age as the band of tissue becomes stiffer and less flexible, but it can also develop in people who are obese, as a result of trauma, or in people like runners, dancers, or other athletes whose feet are subjected to repetitive stresses and strains. Some people who have plantar fasciitis have heel spurs, tiny bony growths that project from the heel bone and press into the plantar fascia. Standing all day can exacerbate the condition as well.
Plantar fasciitis causes pain, aching and throbbing along the side and bottom of the foot that become worse when standing up after a long period of sitting or lying down. Most patients with plantar fasciitis find their symptoms are worse when getting up after a night's sleep. Moving around can “warm up” the tissues and improve flexibility so symptoms are temporarily relieved, but they recur after another period of being inactive.
Many patients with plantar fasciitis find relief from their symptoms by wearing a special splint or brace designed to gently stretch the plantar fascia to restore flexibility and resolve inflammation over time. Oral medications may also help relieve pain and inflammation, and when symptoms are severe or don't respond to splinting alone, corticosteroids can be injected into the bottom of the foot to relieve inflammation. Custom orthotics can be especially effective by providing additional support to the arch and midfoot region to reduce the strain on the plantar fascia. In very few cases, surgery may be needed to remove heel spurs or to reposition the plantar fascia where it attaches to the heel.
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