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TIPS FROM THE TRAINER: Plantar fasciitis: more than just foot pain

TIPS FROM THE TRAINER: Plantar fasciitis: more than just foot pain

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Ever woke up in the morning and felt sharp pains in your foot or heel? Or felt like you couldn’t walk or put pressure on your foot because of the pain?

Well foot/heel pain is something that athletes and everyday people deal with on a daily basis that can alter or even halt normal activity. If you experience this pain on a daily basis, you could be dealing with plantar fasciitis, one of the most common causes of heel pain.

Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. If tension and stress on that bowstring become too great, small tears can arise in the fascia. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the fascia to become irritated or inflamed, though in many cases of plantar fasciitis, the cause isn't clear.

Plantar fasciitis is most common in runners and people between the ages of 40-60. People who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are also at risk. If you work a job that requires you to be on your feet for long periods of time, you are at a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis.

The most common sign and symptom of plantar fasciitis is stabbing pain in your heel that usually occurs with your first few steps in the morning. This pain normally gets better as you get up, move around and loosen up the fascia. This pain can be re-triggered or return if you sit for long periods of time and then try and stand again.

The diagnosis is made based on the medical history and physical examination. During the exam, your doctor will check for areas of tenderness in your foot. Where your pain is situated can help determine its cause.

There is no single treatment that works best for every person with plantar fasciitis. But there are many different at home remedies that you can try that will help decrease your pain and help your foot feel better.

• Rest, which is always the best thing for any injury!

• Ice your foot. One of the best ways to ice your foot is to freeze a water bottle and roll it along the bottom of your foot so you can ice and get a little massage at the same time.

• Take an anti-inflammatory (ibuprofen).

• Stretch the bottom of your foot several times a day (most importantly right before you get out of bed in the mornings). Easiest way to do this is to place a towel around the ball of your foot and pull your toes toward you.

• Get a new pair of shoes that has good arch support and a cushioned sole.

• Try low-impact sports until your pain is better (swimming or bicycling).

If your pain does not get better with the above at home treatments, then you should seek treatment from a doctor. There are other types of treatments your doctor can suggest:

• Physical therapy to learn exercises and stretches that can help strengthen and stretch your plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and lower leg.

• Night splints also might be suggested by your doctor for you to wear at night while you are sleeping. These splints keep your foot in a stretched position while you sleep to facilitate stretching and help prevent that morning foot pain.

• Orthotics might be suggested by your doctor to help distribute pressure to your feet more evenly. Depending on the severity of your plantar fasciitis, either an over-the-counter orthotic could work, or your doctor could prescribe a custom-fit orthotic.

• Injection of a steroid medicine into the painful area can help provide temporary relief.

• Surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone is uncommon, and few people require it. Surgery is used as a last resort when all other treatments have failed to work to relieve the heel pain.

Ignoring plantar fasciitis might result in chronic heel pain that hinders your regular activities. Changing the way you walk to minimize plantar fasciitis pain might lead to foot, knee, hip or back problems.

Always be consistent with your treatment. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner the pain will go away!

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