Sounds like a weed in your garden, but plantar fasciitis is actually a common foot problem. It is the most common cause of heel pain, and the pain can sometimes be excruciating.
The plantar fascia is a strip of thick, fibrous tissue on the bottom of the foot. When it becomes inflamed, the result is plantar fasciitis, which can last for weeks, perhaps months if not properly treated.
Catch It Early
As with many diseases, plantar fasciitis is treated most effectively when it is caught early. This is not always done, though, because people may ignore the early, mild symptoms, and also because it may come on suddenly. Sometimes people will not notice anything is amiss until one morning, when they swing their legs around to get out of bed — and wham — the severe heel pain of plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is a funny thing, because the cause is not fully understood. Sometimes it is straightforward. More than 7 percent of runners develop the condition, and it is also common among people who are on their feet all day, walking on hard surfaces. But there are other, less obvious factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis, such as stress and being overweight.
Years ago, doctors tried to treat plantar fasciitis with surgery, but it was not effective. Today, although the methods vary, treatment may include an initial period of rest, anti-inflammatory medications, a stretching program, use of a heel pad or heel cup insert in the shoe, and ultrasound therapy. Heel cups need not be expensive orthotic devices; the ones you can buy at the drug store are usually just fine.
If you are a runner, you may want to cut back your miles, climb fewer hills and avoid running on concrete surfaces. Do not eliminate all aerobic activity, though. Try alternatives, such as biking or swimming. Learn stretches specific to the plantar fascia and practice them before running (but after warm-up) and afterward. These stretches can also help prevent plantar fasciitis.
Whether you are a runner, a weekend warrior, or someone whose heel pain seemed to come out of the blue, do not ignore plantar fasciitis. There is a chance it will go away of its own accord, but it is far more likely to start out mild and get worse. If your heel starts to hurt on a regular basis, call your doctor for a plan to get yourself back on track to good health.