If this part of the body is completely unknown to you or does not sound familiar at all, do not worry. You are not the only one, even though this is one of the most common sources of pain in the heel area in sports. In fact, we use it every day without noticing it, except when it hurts, gets injured or badly wounded. In broad terms, the plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous, piece of tissue attached to the heel bone. This ligament provides a connection between the bones of your toes, also known as metatarsal bones, and the bones of your heels.
The plantar fascia ligament covers and protects layers of muscles, tendons, nerves and blood vessels that are located on the bottom of the feet. It also supports the arch of your feet when performing daily activities like standing, running and jumping. It also absorbs the shock of strong or harsh movements. This ligament is especially prone to get weak, be irritated, and to be swollen; eventually, the inflammation can become a bigger orthopedic problem known as plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is more often found in older, middle-aged people, but it can also occur in younger people, such as athletes, soldiers, and dancers who have to be on their feet for a great amount of time. The pain in this area can sometimes be a stabbing sensation when taking your first steps in the morning, and it can gradually decrease as you move more. However, the pain eventually comes back when standing for a long period or if you get on your feet from sitting too quickly.
Some risk factor for this condition can be:
- Being overweight or obese.
- Gaining weight in a very short timespan.
- Long-distance running or similar sports.
- Jobs like operating in a factory, bartending, waitressing.
- High feet arches or flat feet.
What can I do to ease the pain?
There are plenty of small steps you can take at home to relieve the discomfort, however, the effectiveness can vary depending on the type of resistance to the pain you have. You can avoid running or walking on hard surfaces, do toe and calf stretches every morning before standing, and change your usual pair of shoes for new ones.
Is there a treatment for plantar fasciitis?
Fortunately, there is! In fact, there are several types of treatments for this condition. The first alternative your doctor might bring up to you is over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs and exercise, along with wearing arch support in your shoes. If it proves ineffective, your doctor might suggest a corticosteroid injection directly into the section of the plantar fascia that has been damaged.
Are there alternative treatments for severe pain?
Surgery is only done when the pain is almost unbearable for the patient, and even when done by a professional, it can lead to feet arch weakness and total function loss. Alternative methods can include extracorporeal shock wave therapy, where sound waves hit your heel to stimulate improvement in the ligament, and wearing night splints.
What can happen if I don’t treat my plantar fasciitis?
If the condition is ignored, you could develop a number of health problems such as chronic heel pain, changes in the way you walk, and injuries to several other body parts like the legs, knees, hips, and back. However, treatments do not cure plantar fasciitis. The pain can remit for months, but it can always come back.
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