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Plantar Fasciitis Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Plantar Fasciitis Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Apria Editorial |

Plantar fasciitis can catch you unexpectedly. Symptoms dissipate while you're at rest but begin again as soon as you take the first step. But how much do you know about it?

Learn more about plantar fasciitis, what causes heel pain, symptoms, prevention & more in this in-depth guide!

The plantar fascia, often known as the "arch lining", is a thick, fibrous connective tissue band that runs down the underside of the foot from the toes to the heel. The medial transverse and longitudinal arches rely on it to transfer mechanical forces and to provide support.

Plantar fasciitis, or heel pain, is a common ailment that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Those on one end of the spectrum are athletes who train more than the average person, putting extra tension and stress on the region. On the other side of the spectrum is an older, more sedentary portion of the population with a higher body mass index. With added weight to carry, the area is prone to more stress.

Plantar fasciitis has a varying lifespan. Most of those diagnosed (80%) will have complete relief of symptoms within 10 months, suggesting that it is a self-limiting illness. In severe instances, however, symptoms may persist for up to 15 years or more.

Plantar fasciitis can catch you unexpectedly. Symptoms dissipate while you're at rest but begin again as soon as you take the first step. But how much do you know about it? In this article, we answer the question, “What is plantar fasciitis?” Learn more about plantar fasciitis, what causes heel pain, symptoms, prevention, and more in this in-depth guide!

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

One of the most prevalent causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis ‒ a condition caused by inflammation of the thick fibrous band of tissue that spans the bottoms of the feet from heel to toe. The term "fasciitis" refers to "inflammation of a muscle or organ's fascia", while "plantar" refers to the sole of the foot.

The sharp discomfort associated with plantar fasciitis is often experienced with the first steps of the day. Pain often subsides when you begin moving around, but it might flare up again if you've been standing for a while or get up too quickly after sitting.

What Causes Heel Pain / Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia supports the foot, absorbing shock when walking or running. Small tears in the fascia are often caused by repeated or long-term tension and stress on the feet. Once this occurs, the area becomes irritated and inflamed. In many cases, the origins of plantar fasciitis remain unknown, but certain risk factors leave a person predisposed to developing the condition.

Risk Factors For Plantar Fasciitis

  • Age: Individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 account for the highest prevalence of plantar fasciitis.
  • Specific Types Of Exercise: Long-distance running, ballet and aerobic movement are all activities that may aggravate plantar fasciitis because they exert a lot of strain on the heel and the tissues linked to it.
  • Mechanics Of The Foot: The plantar fascia might encounter extra strain for those with flat feet, high arches, or even an unusual gait.
  • Obesity: With excess body weight, the plantar fascia takes strain.
  • Active Professions: Plantar fasciitis is more common in those who spend their days walking or standing on hard surfaces, such as factory employees, teachers, and others in the service industry.
  • Incorrect Shoes: Wearing shoes with improper cushioning and support leave the feet vulnerable to over-extension.
  • New Exercise Routine: Often, when you start out exercising or jogging, improper form can cause an over-extension in your feet. Failing to stretch correctly before exercise also puts you at risk.

How To Prevent Heel Pain / Plantar Fasciitis?

The best course of treatment is always prevention. The following tips will help you prevent heel pain / plantar fasciitis:

  • Strive to keep your weight within a healthy range. The plantar fascia may be exacerbated by carrying excess weight. In addition, maintaining a healthy diet with the right amount of vitamins, proteins and minerals will help support and strengthen bodily functions.
  • Wear shoes that will keep your feet stable and supported, and find sturdy footwear with thick soles, an appropriate amount of arch support, and plenty of padding. Tape your Achilles tendon for further support.
  • Wearing worn-out athletic sneakers is not advisable. Instead, replace your worn-out sporting shoes before they stop offering support and cushioning to your feet.
  • Introduce low-impact sports to your exercise routines. Alternate between walking and jogging with a low-impact activity like swimming or cycling.

The plantar fascia, arches, calf muscles, and Achilles tendons can all be stretched with simple at-home workouts. Stretching prepares the muscles for high impact, reducing the occurrence of tears.

Exercise 1:

To develop muscles in your arches, place a clean towel on the floor, hold it with your toes, and pull it toward you.

Exercise 2:

While seated, place your hand on your arch and slowly draw your toes towards you until you feel a light stretch within your arches. Continue this exercise on each foot for 2-3 min.

Exercise 3:

Stand up straight, and place hands flat against the wall. Place your heel down and your back leg straight out. The calf muscle should feel a stretch as the hips are moved forward. Alternate between legs. Stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds without bouncing, with one or two reps done twice or three times daily.

What Are The Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis?

The primary indication of plantar fasciitis is when a patient develops heel pain and pain in the arch region of the foot. The condition is characterized by the following:

  • Heel/arch pain that feels sharp any time you stand up from resting for a period of time
  • Tightness in the Achilles tendon
  • Heel/arch pain that subsides with activity
  • Swollen heels
  • Heel/arch pain that continues for weeks or months at a time
  • Heel/arch pain gradually worsens as you spend an extended amount of time on your feet
  • Inability to flex your toes or experience tingling or numbness in the foot

How To Diagnose Plantar Fasciitis?

After your medical history is reviewed, your physician will thoroughly examine your foot. If pain is experienced when the plantar fascia region is pressed, plantar fasciitis is likely to be the cause. Your physician will ask questions to determine the following:

  • If the pain subsides with activity
  • If pain is more severe directly after rest or exercise

Your responses to these and other questions help your doctor diagnose plantar fasciitis. The specialist will also need to eliminate other possible causes of heel/arch pain. Your healthcare practitioner may conduct imaging tests to rule out the possibility of stress fractures, tendonitis, arthritis, nerve entrapment, or a heel cyst.

Tests Include:

  • Bone scans
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Your specialist will also evaluate the health and strength of your plantar facia by:

  • Reflex testing
  • Muscle tone evaluation
  • Balance & coordination

What Happens If Plantar Fasciitis Is Left Untreated?

While conservative treatments are effective in around 90% of plantar fasciitis cases, the longer the condition is left untreated, the longer it takes to recover and the more problems it may lead to.

  • Heel Spurs: The body produces calcium to protect the foot's arch from further damage. The subsequent pain in the heel occurs because of the sharp protrusions, called heel spurs, caused by the calcium deposits’ pressure on the heel's fatty tissue with each step. They can be prevented with early intervention.
  • Rupture: When plantar fasciitis is ignored and repeated stress is placed on the plantar fascia, a rupture may occur. Activities like jogging, playing sports, or even standing for extended periods fall into this category. Plantar rupture is characterized by a loud pop followed by excruciating pain, swelling, and bruising. Seek emergency medical attention if you suspect a plantar fascia rupture.
  • Plantar Fibromatosis: This is a disorder in which benign nodules progressively form on the plantar fascia. Often going unnoticed, they reach a very progressive growth stage. The larger nodules make walking very uncomfortable and painful.
  • Tearing: When plantar fasciitis isn't addressed, inflammation causes the development of small tears in the tissue. Unfortunately, many people don't recognize the onset of these tears until the discomfort has increased significantly, which leads to further damage.

How Is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?

Looking for heel pain treatment? The following at-home therapies assist with successfully alleviating plantar fasciitis within 10 months. Treatment solutions for heel pain include:

  • A steady routine of calf, heel, and foot stretching exercises
  • Switching to sturdier and more supportive shoes while avoiding flats and sandals
  • Using insoles, arch supports, or customized foot orthotics as needed
  • Relieving calf muscle tension while you sleep by using a night splint
  • Applying pressure and massaging the region
  • Applying ice to the affected region three to four times daily for 10 to 15 minutes at a time
  • Reducing or restricting physical activity, particularly extended standing and high-impact sports
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication
  • Alleviating pressure on the foot by using a walking boot or crutches

Common types of outpatient care are:

  • Steroid (cortisone) injections
  • Physiotherapy
  • Therapeutic use of extracorporeal shockwaves (ESWT) to accelerate healing
  • Consulting a podiatrist (a medical doctor who specializes in treating foot problems) for advice on appropriate footwear and inserts

Surgery will be considered if symptoms persist for more than 12 months after treatment.

  • Gastrocnemius Recession: In this procedure, the calf muscles are lengthened to reduce calf muscle tension, which exerts strain on the plantar fascia.
  • Plantar Fascia Release: This procedure involves making a small incision on the plantar facia to relieve tension and pressure.

How ApriaHome Can Assist You

As experts in the medical equipment supply field, we have come to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment solutions for a wide range of illnesses and conditions. Unfortunately, common conditions, like plantar fasciitis, are often misunderstood and thus go untreated, making heel pain worse. But with proper awareness of the causes, risks, symptoms, and treatment of plantar fasciitis, we can get patients back on their feet in no time.

We've sourced some of the best medical equipment from around the world, all available from the convenience of our online platform.

Looking to treat your plantar fasciitis but need help figuring out where to start?

For overnight pressure alleviation:

For plantar fasciitis pain relief and cold therapy:

For cold compression therapy:

For hot/ cold therapy:

For ankle support:

For mobility aid:

When it comes to heel pain, you don't have to suffer in silence; a wide range of easily accessible treatment solutions are available. Order now and receive free nationwide delivery on all purchases over $99.

Need advice or more information? Our friendly and experienced team is available at (800) 780-1508 between 8:00 am - 10:00 pm EST. Get in touch today.


LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Material in this newsletter is only: (1) provided for general health education and informational purposes, and to provide references to other resources; it may not apply to you as an individual. While Apria believes that the information provided through this communication is accurate and reliable, Apria cannot and does not make any such guarantee. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice, evaluation, diagnosis, services or treatment (collectively, "medical treatment"). Please see your healthcare provider for medical treatment related to you and your specific health condition(s). Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Reading this newsletter should not be construed to mean that you have a healthcare provider/patient relationship with Apria.