As the sportsman’s injury, plantar fasciitis makes sports headlines in the USA, UK podiatrist, Martine Abrahams sheds some light on this common, often debilitating condition
High profile athletes might create headlines, but this painful condition can affect us all.
The plantar tendon and its function:
The plantar tendon runs the length of the bottom of your foot, spanning the area from the base of the toes to the front of your heel. The two ends of the tendon attach at the base of the toes and at the front of the heel bone by means of fascia, a strong fibrous membrane. The plantar tendon keeps the arch of the foot from flattening completely when the foot bears weight, providing cushioning and shock absorption during walking, running or standing. This tendon also allows you to point your toes.
Albert Pujols, player for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the latest elite athlete left sitting on the bench, thanks to plantar fasciitis.
What is Plantar Fasciitits?
When the plantar fascia tissue is stressed, small tears can occur, which in turn, causes extreme pain during movement or even weight bearing – or any movement that creates a pull on the tendon.
Stressors can be varied in nature and include: regular exercise/sport, heel striking during striding, tight calves, inflexible Achilles tendon and wearing high heels.
Other common causes of plantar fasciitis include:
- Wearing inflexible or worn out shoes
- Very low or high arches
- Being overweight
- Spending long hours on your feet
- Tight calf muscles or tight/stiff ankle muscles
- Walking barefoot in soft sand for long distances
- Those with natural flat feet (hyper-pronation) seem to suffer this condition more than others
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis:
Pain can be extreme and is often felt on the underside of the heel and more intense at the start of the day: “You almost want to pee in your bed rather than go to the bathroom,” Pujols told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s really painful in the morning.”
This condition can be difficult to treat and, perhaps most annoying for those who enjoy exercise, is that the main solution is rest, combined with physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections and/or night splints to stretch the injured fascia.
As a short-term pain relief measure, you can roll the bottom of the foot back and forth over a tennis ball or cold bottle of water, to gently stretch out the tendon and disperse the fluid that pools there.
Orthotics can be worn to help support the foot arch:
Ultimately, prevention is probably better than cure where plantar fasciitis is concerned. Wear good shoes with adequate arch support; stretch the area well before and after exercise and regular foot massages will all help.