When the plantar fascia is overused, the tissues become aggravated, causing a stabbing pain in the plantar fascia closest to the heel. While plantar fasciitis is often described as an “inflammation” of the plantar fascia, the actual cause of discomfort comes from tiny tears in the tissue.
Running and Plantar Fasciitis
Runners are the population most often associated with plantar fasciitis. The sustained movement and increased impact of running long-distance can cause the plantar fascia to become aggravated and lead to chronic heel and foot pain. Runners who find themselves suffering from plantar fasciitis may ignore symptoms, try to “push through” the pain, and many have a difficult time committing to treatment due to the fact that mild to moderate plantar fasciitis is almost always treated with foot rest. While plantar fasciitis can be an obstacle to achieving one’s exercise goals, ignoring treatment is the surest way to exacerbate the injury, which can eventually render the sufferer unable to participate in daily activities at all. Before plantar fasciitis begins to interfere with normal activity, a doctor, podiatrist, or orthopedist may be able to design a reduced exercise program to allow the runner to continue some level of activity while giving the fascia a chance to heal. Typically, reduced programs are focused on lessening the strain on the plantar fascia. You will most likely work under restricted mileage for a minimum of two weeks. It is advisable to avoid hill training during your recovery, as running at an incline causes the fascia extra stress as you push through the terrain. By the same token, interval work is typically discouraged, as the sudden increases in speed can damage tissues already irritated by overuse. By reducing your mileage, speed, and curtailing more aggressive training regimens, you can allow your plantar fascia to heal, and be back to a full training schedule much sooner than trying to “push through” the injury. You can learn more about running with plantar fasciitis and select the best running shoes for plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
Obesity and Plantar Fasciitis
Being moderately overweight can also increase the chances of developing plantar fasciitis. The effects of excess weight on the skeletal and muscular system is well known, and responsible for considerable discomfort. One of the common manifestations of discomfort is fascia pain. As with competitive runners, those who begin an exercise routine to lose weight may be very reluctant to curtail their exercise regimen in the interest in healing from a sports injury. The desire to progress in this goal can lead sufferers to ignore or medicate their discomfort, a tactic which will eventually lead to further irritation of the plantar fascia and more invasive treatment to heal the damage. It is always best, in the wake of a sports-related injury, to discuss your options with a physician, and together develop an action plan for relieving the heel pain while still maintaining one’s work-out program. Tips for losing weight while recovering from plantar fasciitis can be found in [the weight loss] section of our site.
Pregnancy And Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a common side effect of pregnancy. This happens for several reasons: First, pregnancy often requires a woman to take on up to 40 pounds of additional weight in order to sustain a healthy pregnancy and support her growing baby. While this added weight is a perfectly healthy bi-product of pregnancy, the additional stress to the feet, legs, and back can cause irritation or worse. In addition, the increase of a protein hormone called relaxin may cause changes to a woman’s physiology; the “growing” feet of pregnancy are caused by the loosening of joints and other connective tissue, due to relaxin released throughout the pregnancy in order to prepare the body for labor and delivery. For a pregnant woman suffering from plantar fasciitis, rest may be the most effective means by which to mitigate the symptoms when taking certain medications is not an option. Although the changes in physiology may be permanent in postpartum, in the majority of cases, plantar fasciitis symptoms are alleviated after delivery and the return to a normal body weight and activity level.
Abnormal Foot Structure
People with pronation or low arch issues (flat feet) are likely to develop plantar fasciitis. As you walk, your feet roll from heel to toes. Over-pronation causes the foot to roll in toward the inner ankle. This causes extra stress on the plantar fascia, which must stretch beyond its normal range to support propulsion. If low arches or over-pronation are the cause of your plantar fasciitis, your doctor or orthopedist may suggest over-the-counter arch supports in order to take the pressure off your arch, which will in turn reduce the stress on your plantar fascia.
The most common first symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing heel pain occurring (typically) in only one foot. This pain is almost always worst in the morning as the sufferer gets out of bed and takes his or her first steps of the day. This pain almost invariably occurs in one foot, and dissipates as the sufferer begins their morning routine (which naturally stretches the plantar fascia and reduces the symptoms for a short time). After hours of non-movement during sleep, the plantar fascia is put into action by standing, and the aggravated tissues flare up until the tissue stretches some. Plantar fasciitis can also occur at other times of day. For instance, long periods of standing still, or rising to your feet from a sitting position are likely reasons for recurrent plantar fascia pain during the day.
If left undiagnosed and untreated, plantar fasciitis can continue to impact the sufferer, and may eventually lead to pain in both heels, much as what is described above. Once the irritation has spread to two feet, the individual may find that pain elsewhere is also increased – typically because of a change in stride caused by “favouring” the affected foot or feet for a long period of time. This may, in turn, lead to more prolonged symptoms, or pain before and/or after an exercise routine. Severe plantar fasciitis may begin to affect the sufferer’s daily routine.
It was at one time believed that heel spurs were the cause of plantar fasciitis. While more research is needed to understand the correlation between the appearance of heel spurs and the onset of plantar fasciitis, it is now commonly held medical opinion that heel spurs are in fact a symptom of progressive plantar fasciitis, rather than a cause. These sometimes painful calcifications appear on the bottom of the heel as a result of repeated stress or injury. They may be present even when plantar fasciitis is not.
Many of the precipitating causes of heel spurs are similar to those of plantar fasciitis. Runners often develop heel spurs due to increased wear and tear on the foot. Those who are overweight are similarly affected. In addition to these, diabetes sufferers often develop heel spurs. Heel cups may help relieve the pain of a heel spur until the overall issue can be addressed and a course of treatment established.
Am I At Risk?
Though nearly 10% of the population will develop plantar fasciitis at some point during their life, certain populations are more likely than others to develop symptoms. People who regularly engage in strenuous physical activity are the most likely to aggravate the plantar fascia due to repetitive motion and impact on the foot. Plantar fasciitis is also more common in men than women, and most common in the 40-70 year age demographic. This is due to the decrease in elasticity of the plantar fascia associated with increased age, and as well as a reduction of the protective layer of fat found in the sole of the foot.