Heel pain? It could be plantar fasciitis.

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Heel pain? It could be plantar fasciitis.

The symptom of this type of sprain is pain when waking up and taking your first few steps in the morning. Pain is felt in the arch of the foot, the toes and more commonly in the heel area, and it radiates down the inside of the sole of your foot. Does this sound like something you experience regularly? This condition is called plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia ligament), and is aggravated by activity.

What is the plantar fascia?

It is a fibrous sheath of tissue that runs most of the length of the sole. It is attached to the calcaneus (heel bone) and the metatarsal heads (bones at the base of the toes), forming the longitudinal arch.

Its function is to provide static support of the arch and shock absorption. As you walk or run, the “toe-off” action tightens the ligament and this assists with a pushing force.

The causes of plantar fasciitis

Long-term standing, walking or sporting activities (over-use of the area). In older individuals, the flexibility of the foot becomes limited and the ligament takes strain. It can also be caused by low or high arches, pronation of the feet, inequality of leg length, and tightness of the calf, eoleus muscle or Achillies tendon.

How to test for this condition

Pull your big toe towards your shin – this stretches the ligament and will be extremely painful if you have plantar fasciitis (remember to also check for a fractured heel bone or a bony spur which has similar symptoms).

Treatment

The condition will generally resolve itself within 6-18 months and early recognition will result in shorter treatment times. Being an inflammatory disorder, the cause of the inflammation needs to be found and addressed. Most sporting individuals need rest and strengthening exercises. In the case that the cause is something that cannot be changed (eg. foot abnormalities), a podiatrist needs to be consulted so measures can be taken to address the problem (eg. shoe modifications). Getting new shoes may also bring instant relief.

Stretching and strengthening techniques

  • Stretching the leg muscles is very important, especially the calves. Find a step over which to hang your heels
  • Rolling the heel over a tennis ball is very helpful
  • Rubbing of the ligament is also a great help
  • Toe curls and toe taps and picking up items with the toes will also be of great assistance

Sources

Camelot International sports massage manual (2013)

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