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Sore Feet | Plantar Fasciitis

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Have you ever experienced pain in the arch or heel of your feet?  If so, there’s a good chance it’s Plantar Fasciitis (“PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus”).  Common in athletes, those who stand a lot, or are middle-age; plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the tissue that supports the arch of the foot, which causes pain with every step and makes standing quite uncomfortable.

The plantar fascia is a flat ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the ball of the foot.  Straining the plantar fascia by excessive standing, running, jumping, and weight lifting causes it to get weak, swollen, inflamed, and painful.  Other common causes are weight gain, tight Achilles tendons or calves, wearing tight shoes, high arches or flat feet, and feet rolling inward too much.  Persistent straining can lead to small tears within the ligament, making the condition even more agonizing.  There’s no ignoring the discomfort for long.  You may not realize what the problem is, but there’s no way of denying there’s a problem.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis are very unique, making the condition easily identifiable.

Foot pain can be caused by various problems and illnesses, but when you take your first few steps in the morning, and the stiffness in your feet interferes with being able to walk normally, you know you’ve got PF.  The ligament tightens up and prevents the foot from stretching and bending properly, and I’ve heard guys say it feels like they’re walking on wooden blocks because their feet are so stiff.  Stiffness doesn’t only happen during sleep, but usually anytime you’re off your feet, including sitting for even short periods of time.  However, with each step, the ligament stretches out a little and the stiffness lets up some.  That doesn’t mean the pain subsides when the stiffness does, since the more you’re on your feet the more pain occurs.

Bone spurs often accompany plantar fasciitis.

There are various reasons we develop bone spurs, but extreme stress on the heel bone and soft tissue are the main cause.  Typically, the constant pulling of the ligament aggravates the heel bone, causing the formation of a bone spur.  The most common sign of a bone spur due to PF is extreme pain with the first few steps after periods of inactivity, along with stiffness.

So, how is PF treated?

The goal is to reduce inflammation, which will allow the ligament to heal.  Although there is no single treatment that works for everyone, here are basic therapies that should help manage and give relief to plantar fasciitis:

  • Get off your feet as much as possible, so they can rest.  Limit or avoid activities that cause discomfort, especially standing for prolonged periods of time, walking or running on hard surfaces, and walking barefoot.
  • Do stretching exercises for the toes, feet, and calf muscles.  Stretches should be done several times a day, particularly when feet are stiffest: upon rising in the morning and when standing after sitting.  Exercises for plantar fasciitis can be found online.
  • Wear arch supports (orthotics) or shoes with adequate arch support.  This may be the most effective treatment, since arch support reduces strain on the plantar arch (ligament).
  • Deep localized massage of the foot helps reduce pain and promotes circulation.  Rolling a tennis ball around under your foot is an effective way of massaging the arch and affected areas.
  • Physical therapy is very beneficial.
  • Heel pain is often reduced with the use of a heel cup or padded shoe inserts.
  • Use ice and never heat on soles and heels for pain and swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication like anti-inflammatories Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and aspirin for both pain and inflammation.  Or, try some natural pain relief: bromelain, curcumin, MSM, etc.

 

Like everything else, treatment for PF should begin as soon as any symptoms appear.  The condition will only get worse with time if no changes are made.  If you’re unable to quickly rectify the problem on your own, see a podiatrist (foot doctor) who can further advise you on treatments and remedies.

There’s nothing like plantar fasciitis to make us appreciate how much we need and depend on our feet.  Whether it’s PF or another foot ailment, act promptly and seek treatment.  Not being able to use feet normally sure interferes with the quality of life.  Take precautions to prevent plantar fasciitis by avoiding the triggers.  If you must stand, run, or do anything else that invites PF, wear supportive shoes and/or orthotics, and take breaks to get off your feet whenever possible.

by Aaron Marino

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