The Layman's Guide to Plantar Fasciitis and Its Treatments

What you recognize as the sudden onset of an intense pain in your heel, Mayo Clinic staff refers to as plantar fasciitis. It denotes an inflammation of the plantar tendon, which is a layer of tissue that stretches across the bottom of your foot. The plantar fascia connects the bone in your heel with your toes and presents sharp stabs of pain when inflamed.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Long periods of standing, running downhill, wearing high-heeled shoes, and climbing stairs may cause the condition. In fact, any movement that causes a pull on the plantar tendon has the potential to result in painful stabbing sensations in the heel. For runners in particular, plantar fasciitis creates a problem when their running styles incorporate a consistent heel strike. Ballet dancers and high-impact Zumba participants, too, may find that these exercises overstress the tendon.

Other factors leading to the condition include obesity and footwear that does not provide adequate support for the feet. Sports hobbyists do not always recognize that the internal support system in their shoes has given way long before the shoes look like they need to be replaced. By delaying the replacement of the footwear, these folks run the risk of encouraging calcium buildups near the heel, which results in consistent pain when exercising, walking, or even standing. 

Counteracting Early Warning Signs

The good news is that plantar fasciitis does not appear overnight. The condition builds up gradually. At the first sign of pain on the bottom of your foot or an uncomfortable feeling in the heel, it is time to take counter measures.

  • Footwear. Stop wearing unhealthy footwear. Turn to shoes with proper arch support and replace your running or exercise shoes regularly.
  • Change your running style. Runners should examine their foot landing styles. If they realize that they are landing on their heels, it is crucial to make a conscious effort to change the landing pattern to a healthier fore-heel strike.
  • Change your running locations. Although running hills offers you more fitness, the pain in your heel calls for flat surface running only.
  • Reduce high-impact activities. Consider switching out your dance aerobics routine for water aerobics when you feel the first twinges of pain.
  • Cushion your feet. When you stand for long periods at work or at home, invest in cushioning mats that take some of the pressure off your heel. These mats reduce the stress your plantar fascia experiences.

Dealing with Fully Developed Plantar Fasciitis

When the early twinges of pain have developed into a chronic condition that causes pain every time your foot touches the ground, you still have options. It starts with a visit to your doctor. This professional helps to rule out other problems. 

Over-the-counter pain relief medication can ease the pain. The downside is the potential for side effects when you take these medications for longer periods. Since plantar fasciitis may last for a while, discuss the use of these medications and their side effects with your doctor before making this decision. Some physicians suggest the use of steroid injections, which do have the potential of greatly reducing the pain. Unfortunately, this treatment can cause more problems than it solves when used repeatedly.

Consult with a physical therapist about the best way that you can change your gait to undo the inflammation now and prevent it from recurring in the future. Orthotics assist with day-to-day activities such as standing at work or walking to your car. Experts at Erchonia have had excellent success with low-level laser therapy. After administering two 10-minute therapeutic laser treatments per week to the heels of affected patients over the course of three weeks, the majority of patients reported a positive change in pain levels. Whereas over-the-counter medications and steroid injections do bear some risks, the laser method did not lead to the report of any side effects.