Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammatory process that occurs in the plantar fascia, usually at the insertion to the heel bone (calcaneus). It has been reported that 10% of the worldwide population will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives. The inflammatory process is thought to occur due to repeated trauma to the plantar fascia as it is over-stretched. In other words, the burden on the foot is too great for the plantar fascia to maintain the foot arch and therefore the arch 'collapses' or 'falls' slightly more than it should, thus over-stretching the fascia. This causes damage (micro-tears) in the plantar fascia which triggers the inflammatory response, causing pain. In the vast majority of cases this process occurs at the origin of the plantar fascia at the heel bone.
Plantar fasciitis, another sports injury detailed on this website, is regularly the cause of foot arch pain or strain. This can arise due to faulty biomechanics in your feet, which alone can also provoke foot arch pains. The most prominent biomechanical difficulties are flat feet and high arches. With flat feet (or overpronation) the arches appear to be almost flattened, causing unevenness by forcing the feet roll inwards in order to maintain balance and support the body's weight. This places inordinate pressure on the plantar fascia and arches. If by contrast you have high arches (instep), the ankle can roll outwards, again causing undue strain on the arches. Too much of this strain can lead to stretching of the plantar fascia and pain in the arches. Other causes include overstretching or otherwise pressuring the arches, for example by exercising with fatigued leg muscles which leave the feet with excessive work to do. You are also particularly at risk if in your 40s or 50s and commencing an intense program of training after a long period of inactivity.
Pain in arch of foot is really the only symptom of this condition. It is unlikely to see any swelling or bruising and instead there will be a deep tender spot near the heel. Occasionally the pain may radiate further down the foot. With this condition, pain will usually be felt first thing in the morning or after periods of sitting. This is because the plantar fascia tightens and shortens slightly when there is no weight on it and by standing on it it suddenly stretches and becomes painful. After a few steps it starts to loosen off and the pain may subside. If this is the same pattern of pain you experience it is quite likely you have plantar fasciits. Pain may also be felt when walking up stairs or standing on tip-toes (anything that stretches the fascia).
Diagnosis of a plantar plate tear can often be challenging due to the complex nature of the anatomy of the foot. Careful history taking and an examination of the area of pain is required to determine the extent and cause of the tear. If necessary, further investigations such as x-rays or diagnostic ultrasound may be ordered by your podiatrist to help evaluate the severity of the problem.
Non Surgical Treatment
Once the severity and cause of arch and foot pain is determined, a course of corrective and rehabilitative actions can be started. Therapists may use machines and manual therapies to reduce pain and increase circulation to the area to promote healing. Maintenance of fitness levels via modification of activity may be prescribed. Substitute activities that may aggravate the pain and soreness with other activities; for instance, running causes the body to have multiple impacts with the ground, but the use of bicycling, elliptical trainers, step machines, swimming, or ski machines eliminates impact and allows you to continue to maintain and improve your fitness levels. Take medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. Follow up with your doctor until you are better.
As with most surgeries, patients and physicians should consider the surgery only after other, less invasive treatments have proven unproductive. Indications for surgery include Pain. Inability to function. Failure to improve after a six-month course of specific, directed physical therapy. Failure to improve after using arch supports, orthotics, or ankle and foot bracing. Once patients are at that point, the good news is that the procedure has considerably better outcomes than more traditional flat foot surgery. In the past, surgeons would realign and fuse the three hind joints, which would cause patients to lose motion, leaving them with a significantly stiff hind foot, With these newer procedures, if the foot is still flexible, surgeons can realign it and usually restore a close-to-normal or functional range of motion in the joints.
Below are two simple plantar fasciitis stretching exercises to help improve the flexibility of the muscles and tendons around the foot and ankle. Plantar fasciitis stretch taken from The Stretching Handbook. Kneel on one foot and place your body weight over your knee. Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward. In the photo to the left, the athlete is stretching the arch of her left foot. Kneel on one foot with your hands on the ground. Place your body weight over your knee and slowly move your knee forward. Keep your toes on the ground and arch your foot. In the photo to the right, the athlete is stretching the arch of his right foot.