What are Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs?
Pain located in the heel of the foot could be plantar fasciitis or heel spurs. Although different, both conditions respond to similar treatment and are often used interchangeably. The fascia is a thick band of tissue found on the bottom of the foot, running from the heel to the base of the toes. Too much stress on the plantar fascia causes it to stretch and tear, resulting in pain and inflammation at the base of the heel. A common problem with runners, plantar fasciitis could also be considered a repetitive stress condition due to the everyday act of walking. Other activities related to heel pain include aerobics, hiking, basketball, volleyball and tennis. Heel spurs are calcium deposits in the plantar fascia that develop as a response to overuse, injury and inflammation. The pain from heel spurs can be felt at the bottom, front part of the heel. Pain from either condition can range from mild to debilitating. Sciatica can also be a contributing factor as the sciatica nerve ends at the heel and can produce chronic heel pain if pressure on the nerve is present.
Heel pain, often during the first steps taken in the morning. Pain may decrease during the day.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis:
Lack of proper arch support, which may result in overpronation causing the foot to twist inward during activity.
Being overweight, which places more stress on the feet as they try to support the additional weight.
Tight calf and/or Achilles Tendon.
A sudden increase from normal level of activity, placing more stress on the fascia, resulting in stretching or tearing.
Inactivity. Not walking enough can create tight, inflexible and weak muscles that are more susceptible to plantar fasciitis.
Self-Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs:
If pain is severe, stop the activity that is causing pain. If mild, continue the activity in moderation.
Apply the principle of R.I.C.E.
Rest: stay off of the injured area as much as possible.
Ice therapy: apply ice massage to the foot at 10-minute intervals for 24 to 48 hours. Rolling the ice over the bottom of the foot, from heel to base of toes may be most helpful for plantar fasciitis.
Compression: use a firm wrap, bandage, or special athletic tape on the arch area to increase support.
Elevation: raise the leg (prop up) to reduce swelling.
Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation.
Stretches meant particularly for the calf muscles and Achilles Tendon.
Cross-training with other activities that dont further stress the fascia, such as aquatic exercises or swimming.
If the pain does not resolve itself after 4 to 6 weeks, see a physician. In the case of severe pain, see a physician immediately.
Prevention of Plantar Fasciitis:
Warm up muscles before an activity with light jogging or walking.
Use ice massage after an activity, such as running, as a preventative measure to reduce inflammation.
Stretching and strengthening of calf muscles and Achilles Tendon by doing stretching exercises and weight training.
The use of orthotics, which are very stiff inserts placed in shoes to improve support to the arch. (Caution: orthotics can also place too much stress on the heel if standing for long periods of time.)
If overweight, loose weight to reduce stress and impact on fascia.
Daily exercise to condition the body, rather than sudden activity between periods of inactivity.
Incorporate rest days into training/exercise program.
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Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation for Plantar Fasciitis. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury. If you have diabetes, a circulatory problem, nerve damage, paralysis or insensitive skin, talk with your doctor before using a cold pack.
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