“Dear Doctor,

I’ve been having severe heel pain and tenderness. I read on the Internet that I might have “Plantar Fasciitis.” What is plantar fasciitis? Is it serious? How should I treat it?”

Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding the heel. The resulting pain to the heels affects many. In fact, according to the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 1 in 10 people develop Plantar Fasciitis in their lifetime and it accounts for 11 to 15 percent of the foot symptoms that require professional care among adults.

To understand Plantar Fasciitis more thoroughly, let’s better understand the structure of your heel. The calcaneum is the main bone of your heel and it is surrounded by a layer of dense padding which helps absorb the shock from each step you take.

Running the length of the sole of your foot is the plantar fascia, a thick ligament that connects your heel to your toes. Then, there’s a nerve running through your heel bone. If your plantar fascia becomes inflamed, due to injury or overuse, it can press painfully against this nerve. Thus, the pain to your heels.

Why does Plantar Fasciitis happen?

There are a few factors which can increase the potential for this painful inflammation:

  • Added weight leads to more strain on the feet and especially the heels. This extra weight can compress the foot in such a way that pressure is on the plantar fascia causing it to swell.
  • A person with a job that requires them to be constantly on their feet.
  • Shoes that aren’t supportive, especially for individuals who are active or exercising frequently. Shoes should have arch support and adequate padding. Shoes should be replaced once or twice a year, and runners may need to replace shoes quarterly.
  • A sudden increase in exercise or training.
  • A tight Achilles tendon. The tendon just above your heel can cause pain in other areas of the foot if it’s not working correctly.

Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis

While plantar fasciitis is incredibly common, there’s no quick fix or magic antidote. The first step you can implement is known as RICE, or Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Let’s break that down:

  • Rest. Cut back your activity levels and try to stay off your feet as much as you can.
  • Ice. Ease the inflammation by rolling a frozen plastic water ball underneath your foot for about 10 minutes, a few times a day.
  • Compression. Wrap the heel to gain additional support. You can also try compression socks and shoes with extra heel support.
  • Elevation. Put your feet up whenever possible to reduce swelling.

This standard protocol is simple, but it can work wonders. As soon as you start experiencing discomfort, implement these steps to start taking care of yourself and the pain.

Ask the Podiatrist: What is Plantar Fasciitis? | RMFA 11.28

There are also a few products which may help to heal or reduce pain when used in tandem with the RICE method. These include; compression socks, insoles, night splints and foot rollers.

Most importantly, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a podiatrist or medical professional as soon as you start experiencing heel pain. By addressing the problem quickly, you will heal quicker and more thoroughly. They can also make sure you aren’t experiencing pain because of a different, but less common, source of heel pain. These may require a different course of treatment.

If you are experiencing heel pain, call the experts at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle at 208-855-5955.