Tame Heel Pain Flareups From Plantar Fasciitis
Understanding Plantar Fascia Strains
Plantar fasciitis causes localized pain in the backside portion of the arch that attaches to the underside of the heel bone, or calcaneus. It often results from overstretching, overloading or tearing in the arch origin that runs from the heel to the front portion of the foot, under the toes.
This band of tissue helps stabilize and propel the foot forward during movement and stretches each time weight is applied when standing or walking. Plantar fascia strains occur when the band experiences excessive trauma or if the arch is exposed to persistent stress. A plantar fascia strain usually gives rise to sustained inflammation in the front of the heel and back portion of the arch. This creates a high level of localized pain, particularly after a prolonged period of rest during non-weight bearing activities such as sleeping and sitting. The band simply tightens when not in use, and if left untreated, a plantar fascia strain can become a chronic and troubling ailment.
Causes: The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is wearing inadequate footwear while running, walking and/or jumping. Additionally, beginners who go overboard doing new physical activities may inadvertently overstretch the band. Additional factors include obesity, sudden weight gain, flat feet, and excessive exercise with insufficient levels of progression. Heel bone spurs may also result as the band continues to pull on the heel bone, causing chronic arch pain.
Signs & Symptoms of Heel Pain From Plantar Fasciitis
- Burning, stabbing, or dull aching pain in the front of the heel and along the tissue band in the backside of the arch
- Difficulty placing weight on the foot while barefoot
- Arch pain that occurs with heel raises or flat-footed squatting
- Localized swelling and tenderness under the heel and arch
Professional Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fascia strains usually respond well to conservative treatment methods. However, recovery time does vary from individual to individual. Be sure to:
- Rest and avoid weight-bearing activities to lessen heel pain.
- Utilize the latest physical therapy modalities and rehab devices to reduce swelling and decrease pain.
- Ice the arch and toe flexor tendons in a stretched position on a consistent basis to reduce inflammation and pain while elongating the sore plantar fascia tendon.
- Always wear the proper footwear for your sport(s).
- Tape the foot to assist in arch support, reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of further injury.
- Massage the posterior arch with progressive, aggressive transverse-friction, applying more moderate pressure to the ankle and lower shin.
- Perform strengthening and stretching exercises for the neighboring arch and calf muscle.
- Buy arch support shoe inserts.
- Properly tape the arch to provide effective support and reduce heel pain when performing weight-bearing activities.
- Minimize weight-bearing activities.
- Work to shed excess pounds, if overweight or obese.
Ask the Right Questions like a Pro
Here’s what smart pro athletes would ask their sports medicine specialist to ensure a fast and safe return to their beloved game or sport:
1) Is this heel pain related in any way to my pelvis, lower extremity or foot alignment?
2) Which types of physical therapy are best to quickly resolve this problem so I can get back to my sport(s), pain-free?
3) Are non-surgical treatment options available?
4) Can this problem cause any long-term complications?
5) Will anti-inflammatory medicines provide relief?
6) Is my painful heel a result of some other biomechanical abnormality that must be addressed?
Elite Sports Medicine Tips from Mike Ryan
- Fast Treatment=Fast Recovery: The sooner you address plantar fascia strains, the sooner they resolve. Seek treatment quickly to avoid a chronic problem.
- Defy Sir Isaac Newton: Aggressive weight-bearing activities prolong recovery time and increase the risk of long-term complications.
- Embrace that Après Workout Life: Immediately following your workout (or related treatment):
- Elevate your foot for 3 minutes
- Stretch for 5 minutes
- Ice your arch and heel for 7 minutes
- Unleash Your Inner Gumby: Aggressively stretching your calves, arches, big toe and toe flexor tendons will go a long way toward maintaining healthy tissue in the entire foot.
- Eat and Drink Right: It’s easier and safer to control inflammation and promote healing by staying well hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet rather than popping pills to manage the problem.