What Triggers Painful Heel And Ways To Prevent It

Heel Discomfort

Overview

The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the underneath of the foot from the heel bone to the toes. At the heel it can also have fascial connections to the achilles tendon. Its job is to maintain the arch of the foot, it acts as a bowstring pulled between the heel and the toes. “Itis” as a suffix indicates inflammation, but with the plantar fascia there is still some controversy over what exactly happens to the tissue when it becomes painful.


Causes

Plantar fasciitis is a painful disorder in the lower part of your foot usually around the heel. That pain usually hurts as you get up in the morning when you try to stand on your feet, or after any periods of inactivity. It is a disorder of a tough and strong band that connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar Fasciitis is caused by injuring that tough band on the bottom of the foot. The following may be the causes of plantar fasciitis. Tight calf muscles or tight Achilles tendon produces repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia. Gait and balance Problem may be a dominant cause of this disorder. Many people have a special style of walking, with something unique that causes some kind of imbalance in their body. It might be something like locked knees, feet that turn-out, a weak abdomen etc. This imbalance may place some pressure on the fascia, which eventually causes plantar fasciitis. Weak foot muscles don’t give enough support to the plantar fascia. The small muscles in the foot give the foot its shape by keeping the bones in place and by expanding and contracting to make a movement. Weak foot muscles will allow greater stress on the fascia. Foot anatomical problems such as flat feet or high arches can make the fascia ligament work or stretch abnormally. Flattening of the fat pad at the sole of the feet under the heels is a Degeneration process that is caused by poor footwear or by age. Shoes that have no proper heel cup can flatten that fat pad quite quickly and cause this disorder. Walking in shoes which do not have good arch support is considered to be a cause of plantar fasciitis. Wearing inadequate or worn out shoes may place more stress on the fascia ligament. If you wear shoes that don’t fit you by size or width, you may put your feet under excessive stress. Overweight Men and women are more vulnerable to developing the condition because of the excess weight on the foot. Pregnant women are at risk due to gaining weight through pregnancy and due to the pregnancy hormones that make ligaments loosen and relax. Sudden increase of activity like starting to run long distance or complete change of daily activity can cause heel pain and this disorder. Practice of repetitive athletic activities, like long distance running, playing a ball game, dancing or jumping, is a common cause for the disorder. Actually it is considered as one of the most common running injuries. Spending long periods of time on your feet everyday can cause plantar fasciitis. Working on your feet a few hours a day evey day may be the reason for your heel pain.


Symptoms

The pain associated with plantar fasciitis is typically gradual in onset and is usually located over the inner or medial aspect of the heel. Occasionally, the pain will be sudden in onset, occurring after missing a step or after jumping from a height. The pain is commonly most severe upon arising from bed in the morning, or after periods of inactivity during the day. Thus, it causes what is known as “first-step pain.” The degree of discomfort can sometimes lessen with activity during the course of the day or after “warming-up”, but can become worse if prolonged or vigorous activity is undertaken. The pain is also often noted to be more severe in bare feet or in shoes with minimal or no padding at the sole.


Diagnosis

Plantar fasciitis is usually diagnosed by a health care provider after consideration of a person’s presenting history, risk factors, and clinical examination. Tenderness to palpation along the inner aspect of the heel bone on the sole of the foot may be elicited during the physical examination. The foot may have limited dorsiflexion due to tightness of the calf muscles or the Achilles tendon. Dorsiflexion of the foot may elicit the pain due to stretching of the plantar fascia with this motion. Diagnostic imaging studies are not usually needed to diagnose plantar fasciitis. However, in certain cases a physician may decide imaging studies (such as X-rays, diagnostic ultrasound or MRI) are warranted to rule out other serious causes of foot pain. Bilateral heel pain or heel pain in the context of a systemic illness may indicate a need for a more in-depth diagnostic investigation. Lateral view x-rays of the ankle are the recommended first-line imaging modality to assess for other causes of heel pain such as stress fractures or bone spur development. Plantar fascia aponeurosis thickening at the heel greater than 5 millimeters as demonstrated by ultrasound is consistent with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. An incidental finding associated with this condition is a heel spur, a small bony calcification on the calcaneus (heel bone), which can be found in up to 50% of those with plantar fasciitis. In such cases, it is the underlying plantar fasciitis that produces the heel pain, and not the spur itself. The condition is responsible for the creation of the spur though the clinical significance of heel spurs in plantar fasciitis remains unclear.


Non Surgical Treatment

Management options are usually conservative. Local injection of steroids, local anaesthetic may be useful to manage symptoms. Ultrasound-guided steroid injection has been shown to be effective in short-term (four-week) pain relief and reduced thickness of the plantar fascia at three months. A posterior tibial nerve block can be performed prior for a less painful plantar fascia injection. Specific plantar fascia stretching exercises performed daily have been shown to reduce short-term (8 weeks) and long-term (two years) pain. Other supportive measures include weight reduction in obese patients, rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and reduction of weight-bearing pressure (soft rubber heel pad, molded orthosis, or heel cup or soft-soled shoes).

Plantar Fasciitis


Surgical Treatment

Surgery is considered only after 12 months of aggressive nonsurgical treatment. Gastrocnemius recession. This is a surgical lengthening of the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. Because tight calf muscles place increased stress on the plantar fascia, this procedure is useful for patients who still have difficulty flexing their feet, despite a year of calf stretches. In gastrocnemius recession, one of the two muscles that make up the calf is lengthened to increase the motion of the ankle. The procedure can be performed with a traditional, open incision or with a smaller incision and an endoscope, an instrument that contains a small camera. Your doctor will discuss the procedure that best meets your needs. Complication rates for gastrocnemius recession are low, but can include nerve damage. Plantar fascia release. If you have a normal range of ankle motion and continued heel pain, your doctor may recommend a partial release procedure. During surgery, the plantar fascia ligament is partially cut to relieve tension in the tissue. If you have a large bone spur, it will be removed, as well. Although the surgery can be performed endoscopically, it is more difficult than with an open incision. In addition, endoscopy has a higher risk of nerve damage.

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