There are two camps of people when it comes to preferred time of day – “early birds” and “night owls.” The early birds wake up easily, hop right out of bed, and are ready to tackle the new day. Night owls, on the other hand, are more likely to hit the snooze button once (or even several times) before finally stumbling out of bed and begrudgingly starting the day.
A commonality between the two camps, though, is that no one is in a good mood when he or she starts their day off with the sharp, intense heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis!
Plantar Fasciitis Basics
The most common source of heel pain for adults is plantar fasciitis, a condition that develops in the connective tissue known as the plantar fascia. This fascia is a fibrous band running along the bottom of the foot, connecting the front of the foot and the heel bone. Your plantar fascia has several important functions, like supporting the foot arch, absorbing the forces that come with every step, and assisting in key biomechanical processes of your foot.
Essentially, the most easily identified symptom of this condition is a severe stabbing pain in the bottom of the heel usually experienced with your first steps following extended periods of rest. The initial steps after a night’s sleep are usually accompanied with this pain. It may subside in time, but the heel pain returns again after time spent either standing in one place or sitting for a while.
Plantar fasciitis is considered to be an overuse injury, one caused by excessive stresses placed upon the plantar fascia. This strain causes tiny tears in the fascia and the body begins repairing them during periods of rest. Repeated stretching and tearing of the fascia leads to inflammation, irritation, and heel pain.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
Conservative care is often quite successful for treating this painful condition. Over-the-counter pain relievers (e.g. naproxen sodium, ibuprofen) can be taken to relieve the pain and inflammation. Be sure to consult with your doctor for specific dosage recommendations. Beyond medication, stretching and strengthening exercises can provide further relief from troublesome symptoms. Depending on your case, we might recommend, injection therapy, over-the-counter shoe inserts or prescribe custom orthotics to help redistribute the pressure on your feet in a more equitable manner.
In very rare cases, we may recommend the use of surgery to detach the plantar fascia from the calcaneus (heel bone) when conservative care is not proving to be effective. In these instances, the foot arch is often weakened following the procedure, so we only recommend surgery when the pain is severe and all other treatment options have failed.
Preventing the Heel Pain
When it comes to plantar fasciitis prevention, the best practices are to stretch on a regular basis and keep the fascia limber. Some effective stretches include:
- Laying a towel out on the floor in front of a chair or the edge of your bed, taking off your shoes and socks, and placing your heels at the edge of the towel. Keeping your heels on the ground, reaching out with your feet and grab the towel with your toes. Start pulling the towel back and under your feet until all of it has been pulled. Smooth the towel back out, and then repeat three more times.
- Sitting in a comfortable chair or the edge of your bed, lift up one of your legs and then cross it over the other. Grab your foot and gently pull back on the toes until you feel the arch being stretched. Hold the position for about 20 seconds, then repeat with your other foot.
- Standing with your hands against a wall and bringing one leg straight behind you. Make sure the foot is planted flat on the ground and then slowly bend the front leg at the knee. Move your hips forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the foot arch. Hold the stretch for about 20-30 seconds, and then switch legs and repeat.
Effective Heel Pain Care in Florida
Plantar fasciitis is the most common source of heel pain, and Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida can help. We have five Florida locations—Orlando, Lake Mary, Kissimmee, Altamonte Springs, and Tavares—to better serve you and your family. Call us at 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if you live in Lake County) or request your appointment with any of our offices online today.