Heel and arch pain are the most common foot complaints of individuals over the age of 40. The group that most commonly experiences heel and arch pain consist of middle-aged women. In addition, active athletes and people working on hard surfaces or walking great distances are susceptible to plantar fascitis and developing heel spurs or sore arches. The pain can progressively get worse so that activities of daily living are adversely affected.
Plantar Fascia Defined
The plantar fascia connects to the calcaneus or heel bone on the undersurface of the foot to the bones of the toes. Its purpose is to support the large arch of the foot. When the fascia becomes injured or inflamed, it’s called plantar fascitis.
What Can Cause Plantar Fascitis?
Plantar fascitis begins with injury to the ligaments and fascia. The fascia helps to maintain the large arch on the inside of the foot. It may affect one or both feet. In most cases, it begins gradually and may be made worse by the following:
- Poorly Fitting Shoes – Shoes lacking firm shanks and counters allow the foot to override the shoe so it appears like the foot has slid off the sole of the shoe. This is commonly called “running over the shoe”.
- Pronation and Pes Planus – “Flat feet” is a rolling inward of the arch.
- Prolonged Standing on Hard Surfaces Such as Concrete
- Walking, Dancing or Running Great Distances – These result in repetitive strain on the bottom of the foot.
- Being Overweight – Extra weight on the arches is stressful.
- Sex – Females over age 40 are more susceptible.
Symptoms of Plantar Fascitis
The presentation of complaints to the doctor includes heel pain upon arising first thing in the morning. The first dozen steps or so are very painful until the fascia loosens up and becomes more flexible. The pain seems to subside only to get worse as the day progresses.
Diagnosis of Plantar Fascitis
The diagnosis of plantar fascitis is arrived at from a combination of
history and physical examination of the foot and lower leg. A classic complaint is heel pain when getting out of bed and beginning to walk. Compression of the calcaneus or heel bone on the sides of the heel is painful. X-rays may be necessary if the doctor suspects a stress fracture to one of the small bones of the foot. Many of the causes of plantar fascitis may contribute to a stress fracture in the foot.
Pain and numbness in the foot at night may also be attributed to a condition called tarsal tunnel sydrome. This is a nerve entrapment in the ankle that may produce similar symptoms as those found with plantar fascitis. Both conditions can bother at night when trying to sleep. Other conditions including arthritis, gout and other systemic problems can also contribute to foot pain.
The immediate treatment goal is to reduce the swelling and inflammation to the soft tissue in the foot. Ice treatment to the foot is initially prescribed. Wearing shoes with a firm counter and shank to prevent bowing of the shoe as well as “running over the side of the shoe” is recommended. Discontinuing running and sports activities reduces stress on the foot. The use of orthotics can be very helpful in restoring the arch (flat foot) and correcting pronation (turning in of the foot). Restoring the arch reduces the stress on the knee, hip and spine. Specific exercises will be given for the foot.
It’s difficult for any one treatment protocol to resolve or control plantar fascitis. The combination of proper footwear, treatment, exercise and modification of activity can be successful. Patient compliance is essential to help in the care and treatment. It may take from a few weeks to several months to resolve the problem. Re-injury and aggravation play a large role in the recovery process. The importance of compliance cannot be stressed enough.
If plantar fascitis is ignored and not treated, it may complicate or contribute to ankle, knee, hip and spinal complaints. The biomechanics of gait may be altered.
The Podiatrist has experience in the care and treatment of plantar fascitis and heel spurs. Call today to make an appointment.
One particular injury, known as shin splints, happens more commonly among athletes who engage in running, such as soccer players, football players and runners. Shin splints, however, are not limited to athletes of just these sports.
What are shin splints?
Shin splints is a general term but refers to many types of injuries that occur in the region of the lower leg (where the calf and shin are located). Shin splints can be caused by inflammation or injury to muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones within the lower leg. In some cases, shin splints can be caused by stress fractures in the shin bones.
What are the signs and symptoms of shin splints?
Shin splints are characterized by a great deal of pain to the lower leg, especially so in the lower portion of the shin closer to the foot. The pain usually worsens when physical activity is begun but eases as the activity continues. The pain may return once the physical activity has been discontinued but often returns later, typically the next morning, much more painful than it had been the previous day. The pain typically intensifies when the toes and foot are bent downwards. In some cases, swelling and redness can be observed in the flesh along the shin bone. Sometimes lumps can be felt beneath the skin along
the shin bone. Shin splints may make it difficult and even excruciating to walk or move.
How are shin splints treated?
There is no cure, however, there are many different treatments available that may help ease the pain associated with shin splints. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be taken to help reduce any swelling that may be contributing to the pain. When the pain is especially intense, icing the area may help ease the pain. Shin splints can be the result of the stress of flat feet so wearing special orthopedic footwear, such as shoes with arch support or foot orthoses, may help ease the pain associated with shin splints. Sometimes physical therapy and special range of motion exercises may help ease the pain of shin splints. Strapping the affected area also helps relieve some of the symptoms. Rocktape is a very effect strapping solution for all your sports injuries. When shin splints become especially painful, medical interventions and narcotic pain medications may become necessary. Sometimes a physician may order an X-ray to determine whether or not a stress fracture may be the cause of the pain. Crutches may be needed if the pain is bad enough.
If you feel you have ‘shin splints’ or any other foot related problems, visit The Podiatrist.