What is plantar fasciitis?
Our feet are complex parts of our body, comprising of a large number of bones, ligaments and muscles. With these they act as the shock absorbers for the entire body, soaking up the impact that our everyday activities may have, whether it’s running, walking or even standing still.
Not surprisingly the heel bears much of the force of the impact and although this is what it’s designed for it can become injured either suddenly or over a period of time. The most common type of heel pain is associated with plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis explained
Plantar fasciitis, can affect anyone at any time and occurs when the plantar fascia band becomes damaged. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that joins the base of the toes to the heel bone. As a result of damage or injury the plantar fascia band thickens and becomes inflamed, which can make it very tender and painful to walk on.
The causes of plantar fasciitis
As heel pain is a common occurrence, with an estimated one in ten people having some form of heel pain during their lifetime, it is unsurprising that anyone is susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. However, there are some activities and groups that may be at a higher risk.
For example, with sudden damage to the plantar fascia band, it is more likely to happen from doing exercise or overuse of the heel, which is more common in younger, athletic people. Whereas people over 40 or those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to suffer from a gradual wearing of the plantar fascia tissue that may start off as a small pain, but get worse over time.
You may also be at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis is you’re overweight, spend a lot of time standing on your feet or you frequently wear flat-soled shoes like sandals or flip flops.
How can I treat plantar fasciitis?
If you are experiencing any heel pain that you think could be plantar fasciitis, it’s always recommended to visit your GP or a podiatrist who can give you a correct diagnosis and treatment. However, there are some simple self-treatments you can also do to reduce the pressure and pain put on your heel.
– Give your heels a rest and avoid putting too much strain on your heels with standing, running or walking for long periods of time
– Wear the right footwear to give your heels better support and padding
– Additional support such as orthoses or strapping can also help protect the inflamed heel
– Regularly stretch your calves and heels to relieve tension
– For pain relief apply icepacks to the affected heel and take painkillers if the pain is very severe.
In most cases plantar fasciitis will clear up on its own, providing you give your heel the time to heal. But if your symptoms do persist you should seek professional medical advice from a GP or podiatrist.