Characterized by a stabbing pain in the heel area that’s often felt when you take your first steps of the day, plantar fasciitis is a common source of heel pain. The condition results from an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running connecting the heel bone and toes. An orthopedic surgeon can determine the extent of the irritation and offer treatment options likely to provide relief.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Often aggravated by movement, plantar fasciitis is related to a strained ligament that supports the arch of the foot. Repeated strain around your arch may cause the main ligament there to tear, leading to inflammation and pain. While anyone can develop the condition, contributing factors can include:
• High arches or flat feet
• Walking or standing on hard surfaces
• Shoes that don’t fit properly
• Tight calf muscles
• Excess weight
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Sharp, stabbing pain that goes away after your foot muscles warm up is often the first sign of plantar fasciitis. The discomfort may return after getting up from a sitting position or standing or walking for long periods of time. Plantar fasciitis can also be characterized by pain that goes away after exercise or while getting up and walking around and returns later.
Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis
Simply allowing small tears in the ligament to heal may be all that’s necessary to treat plantar fasciitis. Since the condition is often aggravated by tight muscles, exercise or physical therapy may be recommended to improve flexibility and relieve tension. Treatment may also include:
• Anti-inflammatory medications
• Ice pack applications
• Cortisone injections
• Supportive shoes and orthotics
• Night splints
When to Consider Surgery
Surgery may be considered for plantar fasciitis if you’re not responding well to other treatments after 8-12 months. Surgery performed by an orthopedic surgeon often involves one of two options:
• Gastrocnemius recession: A surgical lengthening of the calf muscles, this procedure relieves stress on the plantar fascia.
• Plantar fascia release: The plantar fascia ligament is partially cut during this procedure to relieve tissue tension.
If you think your heel pain may be plantar fasciitis, an orthopedic surgeon will perform a thorough exam and eliminate other possible causes, such as arthritis and tarsal tunnel syndrome. An initial treatment pain, often involving medication and exercise, will be recommended. While surgery is an option for plantar fasciitis relief, the condition often responds well to non-surgical treatments.