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Plantar Fasciitis - What is it?

Posted by Nicole on 7/29/2008 to Plantar Fasciitis Information

Pronounced as "plantar fash-ee-eye-tis"

Plantar means "Foot", Fasciitis means "Inflammation"

A painful condition that can lead to serious health complications

Introduction of Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that connects the heel to the toes; it runs along the bottom of the foot, forming the arch of the foot. When inflamed, the plantar fascia contracts, causing excruciating pain, usually in the morning when it has not yet been stretched out.

This happens most with overuse from obesity or weight gain, frequent walking on hard surfaces, or lack of arch support. It is also called ‘joggers’ heel, tennis heel, Policeman’s heel’ or “heel spur syndrome,” the latter of which is most the common nickname. It is actually a misnomer, though, since heel spurs, or inferior calcaneal exostoses, do not actually cause the pain associated with plantar fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is a serious, painful, and progressing illness that occurs when the long, flat ligament along the bottom of the foot develops tears and inflammation. Serious cases of plantar fasciitis can possibly lead to ruptures in the ligament. This ligament is called the plantar fascia and it extends your five toes and runs along the bottom of your foot, attaching to your heel. When you walk or run, you land on your heel and raise yourself on your toes as you shift your weight to your other foot, causing all your weight to be held up by your plantar fascia. Such repetitive force can pull the fascia from its attachment on your heel and cause damage and plantar fasciitis

Symptoms

The most apparent symptom of plantar fasciitis is extremely painful heel pain in the morning,6 but it may also occur after standing or exercising. As the plantar fascia is flexed, however, it tends to loosen up and the pain eases.7 The pain occurs only on the bottom and/or heel of the foot.8 Plantar fasciitis usually only happens in one foot at a time, but has been known to occur in both at the same time. Signs of mild swelling or redness may also be observed.

Causes

While the exact cause is unknown, plantar fasciitis is understood to be the result of repeated small tears in the plantar fascia. These tears can be an effect of several factors: biomechanical, lifestyle, and biological. Sometimes, this condition can result from the way one walks: abnormal pronation, or twisting inward of the foot, high arches, flat feet, tight calf muscles, or tight Achilles tendons. It also results from activities that put great stress on the foot, including walking, running, standing/walking on hard surfaces, sports, walking barefoot too frequently, or wearing shoes that do not provide enough cushion or arch support. Furthermore, biological factors including age, weight5, diabetes and arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis or Reiter’s syndrome) can increase likelihood of development. Also, in some rare cases, plantar fasciitis has been known to occur following a single injury to the foot. Lastly, the condition may strike again in patients who have a history of the condition.

Many factors can cause plantar fasciitis to develop. When walking with a normal step, the plantar fascia ligament stretches as the foot strikes the ground. When walking with an abnormal step, or when putting repetitive pressure on the heel, the plantar fascia ligament can stretch irregularly, become stressed, and develop small tears. These small tears can cause the fascia ligament to become inflamed (plantar fasciitis) and also lead to serious pain.

The pain from plantar fasciitis is described as being dull aching or sharp and can usually be reproduced by flexing the toes upwards (dorsiflexion) and tensing the fascia. Plantar fasciitis tends to worsen after standing or exercising for prolonged periods or after getting out of bed in the morning. Morning heel pain from plantar fasciitis is one of the most common symptoms and occurs because the fascia becomes tense after a protracted rest. As the person walks, the fascia warms up and lengthens slightly, reducing the tension on the ligament and lessening pain.

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis - Overview

  • · Biomechanical factors, such as abnormal inward twisting of the foot (pronation), high arches, flat feet, or tight tendons along the back of the heel (Achilles tendons).
  • · Excessive pronation has been found in about 85% of those who suffer from plantar fasciitis. Prontion can be responsible for added tension in the plantar fascia as the arch lowers during standing or walking.
  • · Repetitive pressure on the feet, such as from jobs or activities that require prolonged walking or standing on hard or irregular surfaces. Running and exercise can also lead to wear and tear on the plantar fascia.
  • · Aggravating factors, such as being overweight or having poorly cushioned shoes.
  • · Natural process of aging which may cause tissue in the heels to weaken over time and/or promote wear and tear.
  • · In rare cases, a single, traumatic injury to the foot such as from a motor vehicle accident can cause the onset of plantar fasciitis.

Diagnoses

Doctors will diagnose plantar fasciitis based on patient history, and by physical examination, paying close attention to signs of pronation or high/low arches. Sometimes, a doctor will perform an x-ray or MRI in order to rule out other possible injuries or causes for pain.

Additional Information on Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is such as common condition, affecting millions of people each year, because the foot must endure significant weight on an almost constant basis. With every step, all of our weight is absorbed by tissue throughout the foot. The heel in particular must absorb the brunt of our body?s weight, not to mention any additional pressure from lifting heavy objects or from other activities. Normally, the foot is should be able to accommodate this weight and allow us to remain on our feet free of pain. But when the foot is loaded to a degree greater than what it can physically tolerate, damage can develop and problems such as plantar fasciitis begin to occur.

As we stand and apply our weight to the foot, the arch drops and the plantar fascia becomes tightened. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the weight that is applied to the foot is so great that the tension in the plantar fascia increase, causing damage as it begins to pull away from the heel bone. This is a very important concept to understand and is probably why plantar fasciitis is such a misunderstood medical condition. The painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis do not result from standing on the heel, but rather result from overwhelming tension or repetitive stress that is exerted on the plantar fascia as we stand or exercise. In such instances, the plantar fascia can become so tight that it is literally being torn from the bottom of the heel bone.

Navigate throughout our website for the most complete resource guide to Plantar Fasciitis. If you are trying to find an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis and related heel pain conditions, be sure to read about the clinically proven HTP Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

Patient Demographics

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain, affecting millions of people each year. Most commonly, overweight women,12 active men between the ages of 40 and 70, and athletes.

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