The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that extends from the heel to the ball portion of the patient’s foot, providing support for the arch and other structures. Sometimes, this band of tissue becomes irritated or inflamed, causing a painful condition called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is more common among athletes and other people whose soles are subjected to repetitive impact, people whose jobs require long periods of standing, and people who are obese or significantly overweight. Older men and women are also more prone to developing the condition as the plantar fascia becomes stiffer and less flexible. In some cases, the development of a bony growth on the heel, known as a heel spur, can cause plantar fasciitis to flare up.
Plantar fasciitis is associated with significant pain in the heel or along the bottom of the foot. Pain is often greatest in the morning or after another long period of immobility, often improving when movement loosens and warms up the plantar fascia, then recurring after another period of immobility.
Before any treatment is administered, the foot and ankle will be carefully evaluated to ensure the painful symptoms are due to plantar fasciitis and not another condition that causes similar symptoms. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, medications may be prescribed to help reduce pain and inflammation, and special stretching exercises may also be recommended to help improve flexibility and strength in the sole of the foot. When oral medications don't reduce pain and inflammation sufficiently, injections of corticosteroids may be used. Special splints or custom orthotics can also provide relief for many patients. In rare cases, surgery may be needed to relieve symptoms. As with other issues affecting the feet and ankles, being evaluated at the first sign of problems is the key to complete relief of symptoms and restoration of normal function.
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