Getting up in the morning can be pretty tough for all of us, but for some people taking their first step of the day can be the hardest. Plantar fasciitis, or Heel Spur Syndrome, affects an estimated one in ten people over the course of their life time. The pain can be excruciating in the morning, or after long periods of inactivity, and is commonly felt in the front or centre of the heel bone. In many cases, only one heel suffers from the condition, but both heels can be affected, and it is more likely in adults aged between 35 and 60 years old.
The Plantar Fascia
The plantar fascia is found under the sole of the foot. It’s a strong and flexible band of tissue that connects the heel bone with the bones at the front of the foot, and acts like a shock absorbing insole for the whole of the foot.
Sudden injury, or years of wear and tear can cause micro-tears to happen inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. This can cause the plantar fascia tissue to become thickened and inflamed, resulting in sharp heel pain. And in some cases, a heel spur can form on the bottom of the calcaneus (heel bone) as the plantar fascia becomes over stretched. This creates ligamentous laxity, which makes the foot arch slowly drop and flatten over time without proper treatment and support.
This acute heel pain can cause some people to walk with a limp, or develop an irregular walking style over time, making activities like running, lifting and standing for long periods of time extremely debilitating.
What causes Plantar Fasciitis?
There are a number of health related issues that can contribute to plantar fasciitis. While both men and women can get plantar fasciitis as they age, women generally are more susceptible to the condition. In fact, it is most common in active women, who regularly go jogging or work in physically demanding jobs which require a lot of walking and standing throughout the day.
The common causes of plantar fasciitis can range from being overweight, to wearing worn out shoes or trainers with little to no arch support. And it is important to remember that pre-existing medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, uneven leg lengths or over-tightness in the Achilles tendon can also be a contributing factor.
Plantar fasciitis is far from unusual, and can be diagnosed by a GP or podiatrist (foot problem specialist) with a single consultation. The health care professional will ask you about your medical history and conduct a short foot examination, pressing on the bottom of your foot. The key symptom they will be checking for is a persistent heel pain at the the base of the plantar fascia which hasn’t gone away for a couple of weeks, even after using anti-inflammatories or pain relieving gels. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, they will suggest the best course of treatment for you.