What in the world is plantar fasciitis?

Your heel hurts the moment your foot touches the floor first thing in the morning? The pain recurs after you have exercised? You might be suffering from plantar fasciitis.

Your heel hurts the moment your foot touches the floor first thing in the morning? The pain recurs after you have exercised? You might be suffering from plantar fasciitis.

This painful foot ailment is caused by an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tendon that connects the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot. The plantar fascia also supports and protects the tendon located in the ball of the foot. Most importantly, it absorbs the shock of every step you take. If the plantar fascia becomes strained or if the tension exerted on it increases, it becomes irritated, causing inflammation. Inflammation arises in order to repair damages to the plantar fascia, but it usually provokes severe pain and may cause lesions if it remains untreated.

Plantar fasciitis is often mistaken for heel spur syndrome, which is a hook-shaped growth of the bone that forms where the plantar fascia joins the heal bone. In fact, it is often the consequence of a plantar fasciitis that has remained untreated for quite some time. Once a plantar fasciitis is healed, the heel spur remains but does not cause pain. People mistakenly believe the pain originates from heel spurs, when the actual problem, the plantar fasciitis, may have been inadequately treated and is not fully healed.

Plantar fasciitis is most often caused by the foot having to bear too much weight or by repeated stretches. Some sports, particularly running, skiing, tennis and aerobics, require the foot to suddenly and repeatedly bear the weight of the body. Walking or standing on hard surfaces such as cement floors for extended periods of time increases the pressure on the ball of the foot, especially if the shoes are not adapted to a specific type of work or are not well adjusted to the foot. Some physical conditions such as obesity, flatfoot or arched foot, pregnancy and age, can also contribute to the sudden appearance of the problem.

Treatment for plantar fasciitis relies on regularly doing exercises to stretch the Achilles tendon (the hard tendon between the heel and the calf) and the plantar fascia.

Here are some suggested stretches that will help keep your feet limber: Pick up a tissue paper with your toes; Stretch the arch by rolling the foot on an empty soft drink bottle or a tennis ball; Loop a towel on the ball of the foot and holding both ends, pull the foot toward you; Cross one leg over the other and pull your toes back toward the shin until you feel a stretch in the sole of your foot.

The key to success lies in repetition (repeat exercise 10 times, holding for 10 seconds) and regularity (repeat the exercise at least 3 times per day and for a few weeks). Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, wearing orthotics or shoe inserts that support the arch of the foot may also help alleviate the pain.

If a plantar fasciitis remains untreated, it will cause severe and persistent pain, restrictions in physical activities and foot, knee, hip and back problems, as the pain usually forces people to change the way they walk.

Remember that you need not suffer, because efficient treatments are available and will also help prevent recurrence.

Speak with your pharmacist about it, he or she will provide you with really helpful tips!

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