Plantar fasciitis can be a real pain in the foot. Plantar fasciitis is the medical term for inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. If you?ve ever had pain in the bottom of your foot with the first few steps out of bed in the morning, you?ve probably had some experience with this painful condition. In active populations, plantar fasciitis is often associated with overuse or a sudden change in activity, and temporarily easing off of activity can be part of the solution. In more sedentary populations, weight gain is usually a major contributor to plantar fasciitis and a weight-loss plan could be of benefit. Whether you?re active or sedentary, however, previous foot injuries, poor arch support, or tight muscles around the foot can all predispose you to plantar fasciitis.
Having low or no arches is normal for some people. In these cases, flat feet are usually inherited and the feet are fairly flexible. Occasionally, flat feet can be caused by an abnormality that develops in the womb, such as a problem with a joint or where two or more bones are fused together. This is known as tarsal coalition and results in the feet being flat and stiff. Flat feet that develop in later life can be caused by a condition that affects the joints, such as arthritis, or an injury to a muscle, tendon or joint in the foot.
Typically, the sufferer of plantar fasciitis experiences pain upon rising after sleep, particularly the first step out of bed. Such pain is tightly localized at the bony landmark on the anterior medial tubercle of the calcaneus. In some cases, pain may prevent the athlete from walking in a normal heel-toe gait, causing an irregular walk as means of compensation. Less common areas of pain include the forefoot, Achilles tendon, or subtalar joint. After a brief period of walking, the pain usually subsides, but returns again either with vigorous activity or prolonged standing or walking. On the field, an altered gait or abnormal stride pattern, along with pain during running or jumping activities are tell-tale signs of plantar fasciitis and should be given prompt attention. Further indications of the injury include poor dorsiflexion (lifting the forefoot off the ground) due to a shortened gastroc complex, (muscles of the calf). Crouching in a full squat position with the sole of the foot flat on the ground can be used as a test, as pain will preclude it for the athlete suffering from plantar fasciitis, causing an elevation of the heel due to tension in the gastroc complex.
In more difficult cases of plantar fasciitis you should see your foot health professional for a thorough examination. They will find out why your arch or heel pain occurred in the first place and devise a treatment plan to relieve your pain and prevent it from reoccurring. They will evaluate your feet, walking pattern (gait), shoes, activities, exercise methods, and other relevant information and then devise your treatment plan.
Non Surgical Treatment
In addition to relieving the pain by providing better metatarsal support for your feet, many doctors advise stretching and strengthening the muscles that surround the damaged or weakened tendons. This advice can prove especially effective in preventing the possible side effects of fallen arches, including: inflammation and discomfort in the ligaments of the sole, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, calluses, and bunions. Like plantar fasciitis, left untreated, fallen arches can cause a domino effect that impacts your legs, hips, and back.
There are two types of bone procedure for flat feet, those where bone cuts and bone grafts are used to alter the alignment by avoiding any joint structures, or joint invasive procedures (called fusions or arthrodeses) that remove a joint to reshape the foot. With joint fusion procedures, there are those procedures that involve non-essential joints of the foot versus those that involve essential joints. All bone procedures have their place in flat foot surgery, and Dr. Blitz carefully evaluates each foot to preserve as much motion and function while obtaining proper and adequate alignment. In many cases a flat foot reconstruction involves both soft tissue procedures and bone procedures to rebuild and restore the arch. There are several joints in the arch of the foot that can collapse - and these joints are non-essential joints of the foot. This does not mean that they do not have a purpose, but rather become inefficient is providing a stable platform for function. As such, locking these non-essential non-functioning joints into place is commonly recommended. These joints are fused together with screws and/or plates. A heel bone that is no longer in proper position and pushed outwards away from the foot can be corrected with a bone cut and realignment procedure, so long as the displacement is not too significant. A benefit of this surgery is that it keeps the back portion of the foot mobile, and helps the surrounding tendons work for efficiently in maintaining the arch. In certain flat feet, the foot is deviated outwards and away from the midline of the body. Sometimes, this is due to the outer portion of the foot being shorter than the inner portion. Here bone graft can be added to the outer edge of the foot to lengthen the foot to swing the foot over into a corrected position. This procedure is most commonly performed in children and young adults. A bone graft is inserted into the top part of the arch to realign a component of the flat foot, medically known as forefoot varus or medial column elevatus. The back part of the foot (called the rearfoot complex) can be the cause (or source) of the flat foot or the simply affected by the flat foot foot. In simple terms, the back part of the foot can be made to flatten out due to arch problems - and vica versa for that matter. Dr. Blitz specifically identifies the cause of the flat foot as this will determine the best treatment plan, as each flat foot needs to be evaluated individually. The rearfoot is made up of three joints, and depending on the extent and most importantly the rigidity of these joints, they may require fusion to restore alignment. When all three joints require fusion - this call is a triple arthrodesis. For completeness, isolated fusion of any of the three joints can be performed (such as subtalar joint arthrodesis, talonavicular arthrodesis, and calcaneaocuboid joint arthrodesis). The medical decision making for isolated fusions is beyond the scope this article, but Dr. Blitz tries to avoid any rearfoot fusion for flexible feet because these are joints are essential joints of the foot, especially in younger people. Those in severe cases, it may be advantageous to provide re-alignment.
Maintain a healthy weight, Use insoles to support your arches, Limit how often you wear high heels, Use proper shoes, especially when exercising to evenly distribute weight through your foot.
Strength training and stretching can help avoid injury and keep your feet free from pain. Stretching should focus on the bottom of your foot to loosen tissues and tight ligaments surrounding your arch. The easiest way to do this is by grabbing a towel and sitting on the floor. You can do this while you catch up on the news in the morning, or when you get home from work. Put one leg out in front with your foot flexed up. Loop the towel around the ball of your foot and gently pull your toes towards you. Hold for thirty seconds and then repeat 3-4 times before switching feet.