Heel Pain

Risk Factors

If you are carrying extra weight you are at a greater risk for this condition. Women who are pregnant may experience plantar fasciitis because of the extra weight carried during pregnancy. Long distance runners or people that stand on their feet for long periods of time, such as factory workers, are also at greater risk. This condition is more common in women than men, and in both men and women between the ages of 40 and 70.

People with existing foot problems, for example high arches or flat feet, and people that have tight Achilles tendons may also be at a higher risk for this condition. If you are in any of these groups you may be able to avoid plantar fasciitis by wearing shoes with good arch support and firm soles.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms are stiffness and pain in the heel of the foot. The pain may develop slowly or be a sudden sharp. Some people experience a burning sensation or an ache on the bottom of their feet. The pain may be worse in the morning when you first get out of bed or if you have been lying down or sitting for an extended period. Also heel stiffness may make it hard to climb stairs. The pain from plantar fasciitis is not usually felt during prolonged activity, but may develop just after stopping because of the flare up of inflammation.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will examine your feet and check for tenderness or soreness. He may also ask you to flex your foot while he pushes on your heel to gauge your pain. Your doctor may also order an MRI or x-ray to rule out fracture or other foot problems.

Most cases of plantar fasciitis can be relieved by rest and the use of over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. If this treatment does not give you relief an injection of a corticosteroid into the damaged ligament may be a treatment option. A small and painless electrical current used in conjunction with topical corticosteroids on the skin of your heel may also be used to relieve pain and inflammation.

Physical therapy to stretch your Achilles tendon, plantar fascia, and leg muscles is a good choice for the treatment of this condition. In very severe cases surgery may be needed. In this surgery the ligament is partially detached and a second surgery is needed to lengthen the calf muscle. This is a very involved surgery and used only for very severe cases or in the event of an injury.