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Plantar Fascititis

Plantar fascititis is common foot problem

Podiatrist Mark Beers, DPM, said one of the most common orthopaedic complaints related to the foot is called plantar fascititis or heel pain.

“Plantar fascititis causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your first steps in the morning,” Dr. Beers, who has been a practicing podiatrist in Oskaloosa for 20 years, explained.  “It often takes a while for your foot to limber up and the pain to decrease, and pain often returns after extended walking or long periods of standing.”

Dr. Beers said plantar fascititis involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, which runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heal bone to the toes. The plantar fascia works like a rubber band between the heel and the ball of the foot to form the arch of the foot. 

“If the band is short, you'll have a high arch, and if it's long, you'll have a low arch or what is often called flat feet,” Dr. Beers explained.  “A pad of fat in your heel covers the plantar fascia to help absorb the shock of walking.”

As a person hits middle age or as stress is put on the feet, the plantar fascia often loses its elasticity. The fat pad on the heel becomes thinner and can't absorb shock as well as it once did. The extra shock damages the plantar fascia and may cause it to swell, tear or bruise.

“Besides age, other risk factors include foot arch problems (both flat foot and high arches), obesity, sudden weight gain or occupations that require a person to stand on his or her feet most of the work day.  Plantar fascititis may also be caused by certain types of exercise, such as long-distance running or ballet dancing, or can be caused by improper shoes that lack arch support.”

Dr. Beers, who is on the medical staff at Mahaska Health Partnership and performs foot surgeries there, said more than 90 percent of patients with plantar fasciitis don’t require surgical intervention. “Initially, plantar fascititis treatment usually consists of anti-inflammatory medications, heel stretching exercises, night splints and/or shoe inserts.”

If these treatments fail, Dr. Beers said a cast boot for three to six weeks is very often successful in reducing pain and swelling. Steroid injections often can also help.  In a few patients, non-surgical treatment fails and surgery to release the inflamed fascia becomes necessary.

“Most patients who start non-surgical therapy will improve within a year with no long-term problems,” Dr. Beers stressed. “In the few patients who do require surgery, most have relief of their heel pain afterwards.”

Dr. Beers recommends the following tips for people with heel pain:

  • Arch support. Wear shoes or custom orthotics designed to support arches.
  • Rest. Decrease or even stop the activities that make the pain worse.
  • Ice. Roll your foot over a cold water bottle or ice for 20 minutes.
  • Consult a Podiatrist. If you have symptoms of plantar fascititis, the most effective way to prevent further damage and get relief is to consult with a trained specialist in foot health.

For more information on plantar fascititis or other foot problems, contact Dr. Beers at Oskaloosa Foot Clinic, 673-3289.