Heel pain affects two million Americans a year. Usually the pain is due to heel spurs or plantar fasciitis (plantar fash-eee-eye-tiss). In each foot there is a long fibrous ligament named plantar fascia, this ligament extends from the heel to the toes of the foot. If tears occur in this ligament, intense pain is the result. Typically the pain centralizes near the heel bone (calcaneous).
The pain is most intense after sleeping because the ligament tightens up during a night’s rest. Upon awakening and placing the foot on the floor the pain is intense. Slowly as the ligament warms up from walking the pain diminishes.
There are several causes of plantar fasciitis. Arthritis affects bones and joints but also can cause inflammation in tendons and ligaments. People who are diabetic have poor blood circulation and often develop this condition. Too much physical exercise or activity can cause ligaments to become inflamed. Excess body weight can stress the lead to this painful condition. Improper shoes can also cause the plantar fascia to be torn or ripped. If a person has an abnormal gait, high arches, flat feet or feet that turn inward they are at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.
Treatments At Home
Home treatment is often enough to cure plantar fasciitis. Over the counter medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen reduces inflammation and pain of the ligament. Ice packs applied to the foot, heel and ankle often reduce discomfort. Athletes and others who usually have strenuous physical activity may have to stop or adjust their routines. Resting the foot and allowing the body to repair the damage naturally is of paramount importance. Changing the style of shoes worn may be necessary. Avoid high heels and wear well designed shoes that support the feet. Sandals and flip-flop type footwear are not supportive shoes for those with plantar fasciitis. There are orthotic devices for shoes such as heel supports, arch supports and foot pads that can be placed inside the shoes to assist the feet in the healing process. These can be purchased ready- made in the foot care area of many stores. Shoes should be worn unless sleeping or resting. Stretching exercises can help to relax the sore ligament in the foot and decrease the pain.
If the pain of plantar fasciitis persists then it is imperative to see a physician. A doctor may have the foot x-rayed to diagnose the condition. The x-ray may show that the foot has a heel spur, which is a tiny bony fragment on the heel bone. This condition often occurs along with the plantar fasciitis condition. The physician may recommend wearing a night splint or brace on the foot, physical therapy or shock wave therapy.