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Bone, Muscle, and Joint Problems

Plantar Fasciitis

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the thick, fibrous tissue that covers the bottom of your foot (plantar fascia) becomes inflamed and painful. Athletes, middle-aged people, and those who are overweight tend to develop plantar fasciitis. Repetitive movements such as running and jumping can lead to heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

An excessive inward rolling of the foot (called pronation) during walking or running can also cause heel pain and plantar fasciitis. Pronation

can be caused by poor arch support, worn-out shoes, tight calf muscles, or running downhill or on uneven surfaces.

Achilles tendinitis can cause pain in the back of the heel.

A heel spur is a calcium build-up that may occur where the inflamed plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone. The presence of a heel spur does not change the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

Prevention

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  • Stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles several times a day (See Stretching exercises. Shaded areas show where stretches are felt.). Stretching is important for both athletes and nonathletes.

  • Maintain a reasonable weight for your height.

  • Wear shoes with well-cushioned soles and good arch supports. Replace running shoes every 480 to 800 km (300 to 500 mi) because padding wears out.

  • Establish good exercise habits. Increase mileage slowly, limit your training on hilly terrain, and run on softer surfaces (grass or dirt) rather than concrete. Cross-train by alternating running with different sports.

    Foot or heel pain is often caused by inflammation of the Achilles tendon or the plantar fascia.

Home Treatment

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Treat heel pain when it first appears to keep plantar fasciitis or other problems from becoming chronic.

  • Reduce all weight-bearing activities to a pain-free level.

  • Apply ice to your heel. See Ice and Cold Packs.

  • You may wish to put nonprescription arch supports in your shoes.

  • Do not go barefoot until the pain is completely gone. Wear shoes or arch-supporting sandals during all weight-bearing activities, even going to the bathroom during the night.

  • Take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain.

  • For Achilles tendinitis, try putting heel lifts or heel cups in both shoes. Use them only until the pain is gone (continue other Home Treatment).

  • Avoid "running through the pain." Reduce your activity to a level that does not cause pain. Try low-impact activities such as cycling or swimming to speed healing. You may need to check with your doctor about when you can gradually resume high-impact activities.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If heel pain occurs with fever, redness, or heat in your heel, or if there is numbness or tingling in your heel or foot.

  • If a heel injury results in pain when you put weight on your heel.

  • If pain continues when you are not standing or bearing any weight on your heel.

  • If heel pain persists for 1 to 2 weeks despite Home Treatment.

    Your doctor may recommend other treatments for plantar fasciitis, such as taping, exercises, or shoe inserts. Surgery is usually done only as a last resort when other treatments fail to relieve pain.

 

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