This information explains the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of plantar fasciitis.

What is plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in adults. It occurs when the ligament that connects your heel bone to the ball of your foot becomes inflamed. This ligament is called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia also supports the arch of your foot.

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What are the signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Most people with plantar fasciitis feel pain when they step out of bed in the morning. The feeling is usually described as a burning, stabbing, or aching pain in the heel of the foot. Sometimes, the pain extends to the front of the foot. However, the pain usually decreases after a few minutes when the tissue warms up.

You may also feel this pain after long periods of standing, physical activity, or at the end of the day.

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What causes plantar fasciitis?

Your plantar fascia acts like a rubber band that stretches with every step that you take. When you strain or injure this ligament, it can tear or become weak, painful, swollen, and inflamed. Some of the causes of or risk factors for plantar fasciitis include:

  • Having tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons.
  • Walking, standing, or running for long periods of time, especially on hard surfaces.
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit well, or don’t have enough support.
  • Weakening of the foot tissue due to aging.
  • Having flat feet, high arches, or an abnormal gait (abnormal or irregular way of walking).
  • Being overweight.
  • Pregnancy or hormonal changes. Hormones can cause ligaments and tissues to become more flexible than normal.
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How is plantar fasciitis diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose plantar fasciitis after a physical exam. He or she will check your feet and watch you as you stand and walk. Sometimes, an x-ray or lab test may be ordered to rule out other problems.

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What is the treatment for plantar fasciitis?

Although plantar fasciitis usually goes away without causing any long-term problems, it can last from 6 to 18 months. The treatments below may help to resolve the issue or reduce the pain.

  • Rest your feet. Decrease activities that place pressure on the heels and balls of the feet, such as running, jumping, and walking.
  • Wear proper shoes for daily activities and exercise. Avoid open-back shoes, sandals, high heels, flip flops, and walking barefoot.
  • You may need to take medication to reduce pain and swelling. The most common types of medications used are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs should be taken with food. Examples of NSAIDs are:
    • Ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®)
    • Naproxen sodium (Aleve®)
    • Naproxen (Naprosyn®)

Speak with your doctor before taking NSAIDs if you:

  • Have a history of gastrointestinal, liver, or kidney disease.
  • Have a history of bleeding disorders.
  • Are taking aspirin or any medication that prevents your blood from clotting.
  • Are taking oral corticosteroids.

Your doctor will tell you which medication is best for you. Always take medications as instructed by your doctor.

  • Massage your heels with ice packs wrapped in a towel to help decrease inflammation and discomfort. Do this 4 to 6 times a day for 10 minutes. Your doctor may suggest placing a frozen bag of vegetables or a cold beverage can under the affected foot and rolling it back and forth.
  • Your doctor may suggest taping your arches, using arch supports, heel cups, night splints, custom orthotics, or physical therapy.
  • Stretch your calf muscles. Your doctor can show you how or can refer you to physical therapy.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. This can help decrease the pressure and stress placed on your feet.

If these treatments don’t help, talk with your doctor. He or she may suggest other treatments, such as corticosteroid injections or surgery.

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