If you've woken up one morning and placed your feet on the floor only to be greeted by a sharp pain running from your heel to your toes, you may be more familiar with plantar fasciitis than you'd like. This condition often arrives unannounced, turning that first step of the day into a wince-worthy event.
Plantar fasciitis is a common condition, affecting each year in the United States. It is especially prevalent among individuals aged 40 to 60 and is more likely to affect women than men. This ailment is also frequently found in runners and athletes whose activities place significant stress on the heel and attached tissue. However, non-athletes aren't immune; factors such as obesity, occupations that keep you on your feet, and foot mechanics can increase the risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Let's dive into the signs that you might be dealing with this uninvited guest:
Understanding Plantar Fasciitis
The central player in plantar fasciitis is the plantar fascia, a thin ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. This ligament is crucial for supporting the arch in your foot and helps us walk. However, too much pressure on the plantar fascia can damage or tear the tissue, resulting in inflammation and stiffness.
This condition is most often caused by a strain injury that causes micro-tears to the plantar fascia, often as a result of overuse. Frequent running or walking, prolonged standing, or biomechanical imbalances or deficiencies in foot structure are common causes of this overuse.
For instance, people with flat feet, high arches, or abnormal walking patterns have an increased risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Age plays a significant role, too; as we get older, the plantar fascia loses its elasticity and becomes less able to handle the stresses of everyday walking or running. Lastly, external factors like the type of footwear you use and the surfaces you walk or run on can also contribute to the occurrence of this condition.
Stretching exercises for your feet, calf muscles, and Achilles tendon can help make these areas more flexible, thus reducing plantar heel pain and the strain on the plantar fascia. Yoga and pilates are excellent for overall flexibility and strengthening, but it's always important to listen to your body. If you start to feel pain in your feet after a particular exercise, stop and rest.
Sign 1: Heel Pain
The most prominent and indicative sign of plantar fasciitis is heel pain. This discomfort is not your run-of-the-mill foot fatigue; it's characterized by a stabbing sensation concentrated in the underside of the heel, caused by the damaged plantar fascia becoming irritated when stretched.
It's worth noting that people with this kind of plantar fasciitis pain often mistake it for a heel spur, which is an abnormal growth on the bottom of the heel bone. However, heel spurs typically form as a result of plantar fasciitis; they are not the cause of plantar fasciitis.
Sign 2: Stiffness or Pain When You Get Up in the Morning
The pain associated with plantar fasciitis is usually most intense in the morning when you wake up. Overnight, the plantar fascia has contracted and gotten stiff, so when you stand up and place weight on your feet, the tissues stretched suddenly, resulting in pain.
Keep in mind that this initial pain usually wears off after a few minutes of walking, but depending on the severity of the condition, it can last for much longer. Wearing night splints, or a brace that holds your foot in a flexed position, can help reduce the pain and stiffness you experience when you first get out of bed.
Sign 3: Difficulty Standing For a Long Period
If you find it challenging to stand for extended periods without experiencing foot pain, you might be dealing with plantar fasciitis. This discomfort can make tasks that require prolonged standing, such as cooking, washing dishes, or even standing in a check-out line, particularly difficult.
The plantar fascia ligament, already irritated due to inflammation, experiences even more strain when you're on your feet for a long time, leading to increased pain. This symptom is especially prevalent in jobs that require standing for most of the workday, like teaching, retail work, or nursing. If possible, it's important to take regular breaks to sit and rest your feet whenever possible.
Sign 4: Pain that Improves with Activity
Interestingly, movement can temporarily ease the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. This relief occurs because as you move, you stimulate blood flow to the affected area, which promotes healing and reduces stiffness in the plantar fascia. Furthermore, movement warms up the ligament, increasing its flexibility and reducing the strain on it.
You might notice that after a short walk or light exercise, the severe pain subsides to a dull ache. This is why the condition flares up in the morning but tends to improve throughout the day.
Sign 5: Foot Pain After Exercise
Despite the temporary relief that comes with movement, increased physical activity can aggravate plantar fasciitis. Any vigorous exercise or running puts additional stress on the plantar fascia, which can end up making your foot pain worse.
If you're an athlete dealing with this condition, it's essential to take a break from your regular sports routine and give your feet adequate time to heal. Low-impact activities like swimming and cycling can help you stay in shape while allowing your feet to rest until the symptoms of plantar fasciitis improve.
How Lake Erie Podiatry Can Help
At Lake Erie Podiatry, we specialize in the treatment of plantar fasciitis and other foot conditions. If you've noticed any of these symptoms and suspect you may be dealing with this condition, it's crucial to seek professional help. Early intervention can prevent plantar fasciitis from becoming chronic plantar fasciitis and causing long-term damage.
Plantar fasciitis treatment typically involves a combination of rest, physical therapy, and in some cases, custom-made shoe inserts that provide the necessary support and alignment to alleviate discomfort. Treating plantar fasciitis at our office means receiving personalized care tailored to your unique needs, ensuring a swift return to your normal activities.
Don't let foot pain hold you back! Reach out to us today and let us help you treat plantar fasciitis effectively.
The expert team at Lake Erie Podiatry is ready and equipped to help you with all of your foot and ankle concerns. Schedule your appointment now and take the first step towards better foot and ankle health. Your wellness is our top priority!