What is plantar fasciitis and should you see a doctor about this problem? It is one of the most common foot problems, affecting around 10% of the population at some point in their lives. The simple definition is that plantar fasciitis is chronic pain in the bottom of the foot. Of course, it is much more than that, and the symptoms can vary from person to person. Sometimes, plantar fasciitis heals on its own, but there are numerous cases where professional treatment is required. The following guide will explain all you need to know about plantar fasciitis and when to see a doctor.
Plantar Fasciitis Explained
A deeper definition of plantar fasciitis can be uncovered by breaking down the term. Plantar is the medical terminology for the sole of your foot, while fascia relates to a long tendon-like structure that’s present there. Specifically, it will run from the ball of your foot to the heel and plays an important role in supporting the natural arch shape of your foot. Over time, this thick band of tissue can become inflamed, leading to chronic pain. As a result, you suffer from plantar fasciitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis?
Typically, the main symptom of this condition is a deep stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot. It tends to occur closer to the heel, and most people experience it worst when taking their first few steps of the day.
There are various reasons you can wake up with stabbing foot pain, so your problem might not be related to this. If you have been on a long run or walk the day before, you may simply have muscular pain in your feet from all the exertion. A good way to distinguish between any old foot pain and plantar fasciitis is that you experience this stabbing pain every day. It will also get worse the longer you stay on your feet, and is particularly bad after finishing exercise.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis can occur in just about anyone and is largely diagnosed as a repetitive stress injury. Anatomically speaking, your plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band that is designed to be a shock absorber. It keeps the arch in your foot intact, preventing flat feet. Whenever you walk, the tension goes through this band and it absorbs all the shock to keep your foot stable. However, when there’s too much stress, the fascia can begin to tear. This is normal, but continued tearing will lead to inflammation, which causes the pain.
There are also certain things that can increase the risk of you developing this painful condition:
- Exercises that put lots of stress on your heels – Any exercises that require you to put lots of weight or stress on your heel will add repeated tension to your plantar fascia. This is why a lot of ballet dancers and runners suffer from this condition from an early age.
- Flat feet – People with flat feet are at a high risk of developing plantar fasciitis as the collapsed arch puts more pressure on the plantar fascia.
- High arches – Similarly, if your foot has an abnormally high arch, there’s more pressure on the fascia to keep it intact. Therefore, it will work harder and be under more stress, increasing the likelihood of plantar fasciitis.
- Strange walking mechanics – People walk differently and their bodies follow different walking mechanics. A slightly strange or abnormal way of walking can put added stress on your plantar fascia and cause pain.
- Being on your feet for long hours – Anyone that works in a job where they are constantly on their feet will risk developing this issue. The more time you spend on your feet, the more likely it is you will have chronic foot pain.
When Should You See A Doctor About Plantar Fasciitis?
Your instant reaction might be to see a doctor instantly when you suffer from severe foot pain that won’t go away. However, it’s found that about 75% of plantar fasciitis cases resolve spontaneously within 12 months. This is a condition that can be treated at home by following some simple steps:
- Purchase arch support – This can be worn in your shoes and helps to support your arch to prevent the plantar fascia from overworking. It’s the simplest way of relieving the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and letting your feet recover.
- Ice your feet – Using a cold compress on the soles of your feet is a good way to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. You can try this whenever you experience the symptoms and pain.
- Stretch daily – Carry out daily stretches of your feet to let the fascia stretch out and reduce tension in the area. It’s a good idea to stretch the plantar fascia itself, along with the calf muscles and Achilles tendon.
- Strengthen your muscles – Strengthening certain muscles in your feet and lower legs can help to relieve plantar fasciitis. Working on strengthening your arch will be a good help, and building up calf strength also prevents the problem.
Generally, it’s recommended that you try these treatments for 3-4 weeks and see if anything changes. If the pain subsides, there will be no need to see a doctor. If you are still in considerable pain, it makes sense to call a doctor and be seen as soon as possible.
Additionally, if you have swelling around your feet or you physically can’t walk due to the pain, you should see a doctor immediately. This is not normal and signifies you have extremely bad plantar fasciitis that must be seen right away.
It’s never a good idea to let plantar fasciitis go untreated. Whether this means seeing a doctor or treating it yourself at home, you can’t let the symptoms linger. The longer it goes untreated, the worse it will become, to the point where it disrupts your activities of daily living. Furthermore, the symptoms of plantar fasciitis can also be symptoms of a greater problem. This is why seeing a podiatrist get a proper diagnosis is helpful. An x-ray can clear everything up, identifying if you have plantar fasciitis or something more serious – like a bone fracture.
The first step to handling plantar fasciitis is identifying the symptoms. Once you’ve done this, you should try home treatments before seeing a doctor, unless the symptoms are very severe. Now, you can get the treatment you need. See our Services page here for more info on our practice.
Dr. Engel has been providing outstanding care to his patients in the Southeastern Wisconsin Community for the past decade and a half specializing in foot and ankle lower extremity disorders.