The plantar fascia is a thick, strong sheet of fibrous connective tissue that connects the heel and the toes. The plantar fascia forms the arch of the foot and helps to absorb shock during weight bearing activity. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, and if left untreated, can contribute to the development of bone spurs in the heel.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis

Symptoms occur in the sole of the foot and may often be worse after inactivity/rest, during the night, or upon waking in the morning. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the heel and/or the arch of the foot
  • Ripping/tearing sensation upon use of the foot
  • Pain and stiffness that initially subsides upon movement, but returns after activity
  • Pain is eventually present all the time, even at rest.
  • Formation of bone spurs

Causes and risk factors for plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is typically an overuse injury due to traction (over stretching) but can be due to compression (i.e. a blow to the area). Some of the causes and risks for developing plantar fasciitis are:

  • Overuse or (work/training) or sudden increase in use.
  • Blow to the sole of the foot/treading on an object
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Foot dysfunction, including flat feet or high arches
  • Female gender – more common in women & during pregnancy
  • Age – more common in people middle aged & over
  • Overweight – excess body weight increases the forces placed on the plantar fascia

Treatment and management

Without appropriate treatment and management, plantar fasciitis can be a recurring problem, particularly if the underlying cause is not identified. Your osteopath can perform an examination to properly diagnose the condition and identify the cause. They may also recommend:

  • Osteopathic treatment of leg muscles that may be contributing to the problem
  • Rehabilitation exercises and stretches
  • Ice massage or stretching massage using a tennis ball
  • A night splint to keep the foot elongated during sleep
  • Training or ergonomic modifications
  • Reducing inflammation with medications

What to avoid

  • Avoid engaging in the activity that may have caused the problem
  • Do not self-prescribe massage
  • Do not apply heat or heat creams to the affected area
  • Do not self-prescribe, stretches or exercises

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