This is the first in a series of blogs I hope to be writing about common injuries that can be sustained as a result of pursuing fitness. As good as exercise is for us, we must be aware that even the best of intentions can go awry at times.
Plantar fasciitis (pronounced plan tar fashee it is) is an extremely common condition that usually plagues long distance runners and walkers. Simply put, it is inflammation of the connective tissue in the heels of the feet, presumably from repeated trauma, though the exact cause is still somewhat of a mystery. The symptoms are classic and people will commonly complain that they have excruciating pain in their heels or bottoms of their feet when they first place their feet on the ground upon getting out of bed in the morning and with the first few steps of the day. The pain gradually begins to subside over the course of the day but still occurs if the individual stands up after having been off his/her feet for a period of time. The pain is usually severe enough to prompt a visit to the doctor's office. X-rays and other imaging tests such as MRI's are usually unnecessary and your health provider can often make the diagnosis upon hearing your symptoms and performing a physical exam.
Treatments usually focus on alleviating symptoms and taking pressure off the heel. Non-steroidal anti inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be effective for that early morning pain upon awakening, especially when taken before going to bed. They not only provide pain relief effects but act to decrease inflammation in the connective tissue. Another intervention that can be effective is using shoe or sneaker inserts such as Dr. Scholl's. Specifically, you will want to get heel inserts that will cushion the impact in that area. Also, comfortable shoes or sneakers with plenty of cushioning for the heels and soles are a must, especially when exercising. If you have been doing long distance running or walking, it may not be a bad idea to stop those exercises for a while and substitute bicycling or an elliptical machine, neither of which involve heavy impact on the feet.
The good news about plantar fasciitis is that it is normally self limited, is not serious, and tends to resolve over a period of several weeks. The bad news is that it can often take several weeks to resolve despite the interventions mentioned above. A small subset of people can have cases that persist for more than several weeks. Those individuals can sometimes require injections of steroid and numbing medicine by a podiatrist.
If you are experiencing pain in your feet or heels of any kind, you are first advised to see your doctor. Only a trained professional can distinguish this condition from other potentially more serious problems.
Published On: July 30, 2008