What is Plantar Fasciitis?
This is a common cause of heel pain and usually comes on gradually. It is more common in runners, people who have a high BMI and in those who wear footwear that is not supportive to the foot.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toes on the inner side of the sole of the foot and it can become painful if it becomes inflamed. The pain often varies in severity, typically being worse first thing in the morning when the foot and ankle feel stiffer and improving as the foot becomes stretched out. This early morning pain can be helped by using a splint that holds the foot and ankle in a neutral position overnight. Standing and even walking can be made difficult and painful by this condition.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis of the condition by a specialist is usually straightforward, and further tests are usually not necessary.
Foot x-rays are often performed to exclude other causes for heel pain and scans may be performed as needed.
How is Plantar Fasciitis treated?
Plantar fasciitis treatment starts with simple anti-inflammatory tablets and painkillers, together with plantar fascia stretches and, where necessary, insoles (orthotics). The latter can help support the foot better and to take the pressure off the plantar fascia by spreading the load across the whole foot. As already mentioned, night splints may also be helpful in preventing severe early morning symptoms and helping the plantar fascia to heal.
What if these treatments don’t work?
Sometimes the condition does not respond to these measures and becomes longstanding (chronic). In these cases other treatments are considered. We avoid steroid injections into the heel because these do not usually result in a permanent cure through a healing response and can cause damage to the plantar fascia and loss of the normal fat pad that cushions the heel bone. We prefer to use shock wave therapy as the next line treatment for plantar fasciitis and achieve excellent results with this needle-free, outpatient procedure in 70% of patients. This treatment induces a healing response and so is more likely to result in the condition being cured.
Other treatments are rarely needed but include PRP injections and mini-incision day-case surgery.