Plantar fasciitis

Definition

The plantar fascia is the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. It connects the heel bone to the toes and creates the arch of the foot. When this tissue becomes swollen or inflamed, it is called plantar fasciitis.

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:

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 foot complaints.

Plantar fasciitis was commonly thought to be caused by a heel spur. However, 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 symptom 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 often worse:

The pain may develop slowly over time, or come on 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 often recommend these steps first:

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.

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. Stretch your plantar fascia in the morning before you get out of bed. Doing activities in moderation can also help.


Review Date: 3/8/2014
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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