When an individual experiences pain in either of their feet, it becomes very difficult to engage in even simple acts such as walking.  Although foot pain can stem from several issues such as a sprained ankle, Achilles tendonitis, or even issues with the lower back, plantar fasciitis is also a common culprit of foot pain, so it is important to see a physician or physical therapist in order to get an accurate diagnosis.  In this post, we will discuss what plantar fasciitis is, who is most commonly affected, and how to treat it.  We will also provide two simple home tests that can help a physician diagnose if your foot pain is actually a case of plantar fasciitis, or if your pain is caused by some other condition.

Plantar Fascia Defined

The plantar fascia is a ligament that stretches between the front of the foot and the heel.  It helps support the natural arch of the foot and it plays an integral role in helping humans to walk and run comfortably.  Plantar fasciitis occurs when the fascia in one or both feet becomes inflamed and painful from tiny tears in the ligament.  Plantar fasciitis is most common in middle-aged individuals, but it is also fairly common in anyone who is on their feet a lot including soldiers, athletes, nurses, wait staff, etc.  Other factors include obesity, wearing shoes that do not fit well or provide proper arch support, tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons, high foot arches or no arches (flat feet), or excessive pronation, otherwise known as rolling the feet inward during walking.

Some people may have heard that heel spurs cause plantar fasciitis, but this is actually not the case.  Although it is certainly possible to have a bone spur and plantar fasciitis at the same time, heel spurs are a bone condition, not a ligament issue.  Many people have bone spurs without having plantar fasciitis.

 

 

Plantar Fasciitis Treatments

If your podiatrist has diagnosed your foot pain as plantar fasciitis, there are several treatments available.  They may recommend a steroid injection to help with the pain and inflammation, and they will most likely fit you with special shoe inserts designed to provide proper arch support.  Your podiatrist may also recommend a series of physical therapy treatments to help you learn proper stretching and strengthening exercises for your feet and calves.  Your physical therapist may also utilize cold level laser therapy in their treatment.  This is a non-invasive therapy designed to reduce pain and inflammation while promoting healing of tissues.  As a last resort, your podiatrist may recommend surgery to help eliminate plantar fascia pain, but 90% of plantar fasciitis cases are resolved non-surgically.

 

Home Tests

If you are experiencing foot pain and have already made an appointment with a podiatrist or your primary care physician, there are some simple tests you can do at home that can help your physician provide you with a proper diagnosis.  The first one is called the test and it is named so because it is an observation of the first step you take upon rising in the morning.  When you first get out of bed and take a step, if you experience a significant amount of pain near the heel of your foot, which gradually fades to a more reasonable level of pain as you continue to walk, then you may have a case of plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis sufferers usually notice this pain first thing in the morning because it is the first time they are stretching their fascia after a night of relative relaxation.

The next test is called the“hot spot” test.  Sit in a chair, bend your knee and bring your affected foot up to rest on the opposite knee.  Using your thumb, press firmly down throughout the heel area of your foot.  If you experience significant amounts of pain, or “hot spots”, then you most likely have plantar fasciitis.

Painful heel with red spot on woman's foot. Arthritis. Tarsal tunnel syndrome concept. Heel pain in women. Pain concept

Summary

If you “failed” one or both tests, it is important to obtain a diagnosis and receive treatment, since if left alone, plantar fasciitis only continues to degrade further.  Have more questions?  Contact the plantar fascia and foot pain experts at Cawley PT and Rehab.  Please call us at 570-208-2787 or send an email to cawleyptfrank@gmail.com.