We see plenty of patients at the clinic who complain of heel pain, and one common reason is plantar fasciitis. Now the condition seems to have gone viral. Suddenly there are a host of celebrities— including President Obama and Peyton Manning— who are suffering from this nagging pain.
We don’t know about President Obama’s history, but professional athletes are prone to plantar fasciitis due to the repetitive pounding and stress that occurs on the basketball court, gridiron and baseball field.
While plantar fasciitis is one of the top five foot and ankle injuries in professional sports, ordinary folks are also at risk. One of our patients (we’ll call him James) had been limping around for six months before he appeared at our Dallas clinic. By that time, unfortunately, the condition was quite severe. It was a few months before James could return to the game he loves (tennis).
Plantar fasciitis goes by many names, including tennis heel, jogger’s heel, or policeman’s heel. What all of these names have in common is the word ‘heel’. Typically, patients first notice an aching pain in the heel area.
Many try to tough it out, which is not a good strategy. Ignoring the pain could lead to more damage and a longer recovery time. If you are suffering from heel pain that’s especially brutal first thing in the morning, call our clinic. (We have branches in DeSoto and Sunnyvale as well as Dallas.)
Many patients try to tough it out when they start feeling heel pain. This can lead to more damage and a longer recovery time. It’s best to call the clinic so we can get started on reducing the inflammation that is the source of the pain, and get you back on your (pain-free) feet again.
Heel Pain Brings Everything to a Halt
While various factors are suspected to play a role in the development of plantar fasciitis, there’s no single source. The plantar fascia is a band of tough tissue that runs down the underside of the foot. The ligament helps absorb the weight of the body and puts a spring in your step. When the plantar fascia is sprained or torn, inflammation occurs as the body tries to protect its wounded foot soldier. The inflammation and irritated nerves produce pain.
Runners load two or three times their body weight as they land between steps. This may cause repetitive microtrauma, or a partial tear of the fascia. Since we need to walk on those feet, the inflammation is constantly flaring up. James described his pain first thing in the morning as « so intense I just wanted to stay in bed all day. »
Conservative Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis Needs Time
Our aim with conservative therapy is to manage the symptoms. There are various ways to achieve this, including:
- Icing the bottom of the foot
- Physical therapy
- Padding or strapping
- Corticosteroid injections
- Night splints to stretch the fascia
- Radio frequency treatment
If conservative treatment isn’t effective, we may recommend surgery. Plantar fascia release is the usual surgical treatment. Up to 90% of patients say they are pleased with the results of surgical release. The success rate higher if the condition isn’t allowed to linger too long.
As we told James, the strategy is to reduce inflammation and irritation so the fascia can heal. We take a multi-pronged approach, applying a mix of conservative therapies to learn which are most effective for a particular patient.
During the healing process, we ask the patient to wear shoes with good arch support and to avoid standing for long periods of time. We also show him how to stretch the plantar fascia and apply ice for 20 minutes after weight-bearing activities and at the end of each day. Folks who are addicted to a work-out routine might consider a temporary switch to swimming or yoga— any exercise that doesn’t place more strain on the feet. (Sorry, James. That includes tennis.)