What Is Plantar Fasciitis? - Definition, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Jayne Yenko

Jayne has taught health/nutrition and education at the college level and has a master's degree in education.

Plantar fasciitis can be a real pain in the foot. If you have plantar fasciitis, you might be interested in discovering what causes it and how to treat it. There are ways to beat the condition before it takes over your life.

Definition and Causes

One of the most common causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a flat tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes, creating the arch of one's foot. This tissue acts like a shock absorber, something like a rubber band. If the band is long, you have a low arch, if it is short, you have a high arch.

If the band is too tight, small tears can occur, resulting in tissue that is inflamed and swollen, and that hurts. It can occur in just one foot, or both. People who are on their feet a lot can suffer from it. If you are overweight, wear shoes that don't fit properly, or you have tight calf muscles, you might get a bout of plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms

A tell-tale symptom of plantar fasciitis is a stabbing pain when you take your first steps in the morning. However, not everyone will experience this symptom. Pain may increase during the day. You may hurt more the longer you stand, or if you climb stairs or sit for long periods of time. It tends to develop gradually over time, until you're limping from pain.

Treatment

Tests are usually not necessary to diagnose this condition. Since if affects tissue, not bone, it won't show up on x-rays. Plantar fasciitis can resolve on its own, within six to 18 months, but can take up to two years, even with treatment. The trick is to treat it sooner rather than later.

Some lifestyle changes can be helpful in treating plantar fasciitis. Maintaining a healthy weight is one option. Choosing shoes with a low heel and good arch support is another. Making sure your athletic shoes are supportive and replacing them when they're worn out is a third option. Changing your sport from running to bicycling or swimming can help ease the pain in your feet.

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