Jason Lake, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon on the medical staff at Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, Ariz. He can be reached at (480) 964-2908.
Question: The bottom of my heel has been aching for almost 2 months. My friend tells me I probably have plantar fasciitis. What is plantar fasciitis and how do I make it go away?
Answer: Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia (the thick tissue spanning from the heel to the base of the toes). The plantar fascia helps support the arch. When this tissue becomes inflamed, it can be severely painful. It is especially noticeable when you take those first few steps in the morning or after sitting. Pain is also common at the end of the day.
Plantar fasciitis tends to be more common in people who are overweight, spend a significant amount of time standing or walking, have tight calf musculature, or have very high or low arches.
There is not a magic bullet for making plantar fasciitis go away. However, there are many non-invasive treatments for plantar fasciitis. This usually begins with certain stretches, shoe modifications, anti-inflammatory medications, and icing.
If symptoms persist, the use of night splints, casts, boots or occasionally a steroid injection may lead to resolution. Surgical treatment is a last result for chronic conditions and is rarely needed! Thus, is important to begin treatment early so as to prevent it from becoming a chronic condition.
Patients with a stress fracture, Achilles tendinitis, loss of cushion in the heel, or nerve entrapment can have similar complaints as patients with plantar fasciitis. Additionally, patients with underlying foot conditions are more prone to plantar fasciitis. Your physician can perform an evaluation to rule out these other conditions before you begin your treatment plan.
Reviewed February 2011