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An unpronounceable problem is the most likely cause of foot pain

February 2018

doctor examining woman's foot

Any problems with our feet can cause huge ramifications in our lives and one problem that is more widespread once we reach middle age and beyond is plantar fasciitis (pronounced fashee-eye-tis).

This is the most common cause of heel pain, usually caused by straining the ligaments that help to form the arch in your foot between the toes and heel.  Repeated strain to the ligament can lead to tiny tears developing which can hurt and even swell, causing more pain.

There are lots of causes but it can occur among anyone who has especially high arches or suffers from the opposite, very flat feet. Certain types of exercise can place stress on your heel and attached tissue such as long distance running or aerobic dancing; and sometimes simply standing on your feet for long hours in occupations such as factory working or teaching can cause the problem. Being overweight can add additional strain in this area as well. Another cause is wearing shoes that don’t fit well or offer any support. It is more common in women, and that could be in part due to women wearing high heels and then swapping to flat shoes which can cause a strain on the plantar fascia ligament.

The symptoms like so many things can vary, but generally plantar fasciliitus can cause pain in your heel and foot after you have been sitting down for a long time or when you get up in the morning. Sometimes the pain can increase throughout the day, or the problem can show itself when you stand for a long time or even when you climb stairs.

If the pain is not too severe, then self help ideas may be recommended by your health provider including wearing supportive shoes with shock absorbency and not walking barefoot on hard surfaces. An ice pack held on the area for 15 minutes three or four times a day can be helpful as well to help reduce the pain and any inflammation. There are also some simple exercises you can do at home to stretch your arches which may help.

It can take many weeks or even months to reduce the problem,  and pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also be useful.

There are physical remedies that are sometimes recommended, such as night splints which are to stretch your calf and the arch of your foot while you are asleep; or orthotics to offer custom made arch supports so that the pressure on your feet is distributed more evenly.

When the pain is severe and doesn’t respond to the normal treatments, then there is a range of other treatments that can help. These include injections, usually containing a steroid medication, and shock wave therapy when sound waves are aimed at the area to stimulate healing. These can be very effective but there can be side effects and they don’t work for everyone.

There is a procedure called Tenex which removes any scar tissue on the plantar fasciitis without main surgery; but in chronic conditions surgery can be performed to detach the plantar fascia from the heel bone. This should greatly reduce the pain but side effects can include a weakening of the arch in the foot.

There is more information at nhs.uk/conditions/heel-pain


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An unpronounceable problem is the most likely cause of foot pain

doctor examining woman's foot

Any problems with our feet can cause huge ramifications in our lives and one problem that is more widespread once we reach middle age and beyond is plantar fasciitis (pronounced fashee-eye-tis).

more

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