Plantar fasciitis

Definition

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. This tissue is called the plantar fascia. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot.

Causes

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot is overstretched or overused. This can be painful and make walking more difficult.

You are more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you have:

Plantar fasciitis is seen in both men and women. However, it most often affects active men ages 40 - 70. It is one of the most common orthopedic complaints relating to the foot.

Plantar fasciitis is commonly thought of as being caused by a heel spur, but research has found that this is not the case. On x-ray, heel spurs are seen in people with and without plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms

The most common complaint is pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel. The heel pain may be dull or sharp. The bottom of the foot may also ache or burn.

The pain is usually worse:

The pain may develop slowly over time, or suddenly after intense activity.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may show:

X-rays may be taken to rule out other problems.

Treatment

Your health care provider will usually first recommend:

Other steps to relieve pain include:

If these treatments do not work, your health care provider may recommend:

Sometimes, foot surgery is needed.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Nonsurgical treatments almost always improve the pain. Treatment can last from several months to 2 years before symptoms get better. Most patients feel better in 9 months. Some people need surgery to relieve the pain.

Possible Complications

Pain may continue despite treatment. Some people may need surgery. Surgery has its own risks. Talk to your doctor about the risks of surgery.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Prevention

Making sure your ankle, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles are flexible can help prevent plantar fasciitis.


Review Date: 3/1/2012
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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