Plantar fasciitis is among the most common causes of heel pain. Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can progress, becoming a chronic source of irritation and discomfort. While many Americans simply endure their symptoms and hope for eventual relief, plantar fasciitis can persist for weeks, months, and even years. Some people hesitate to seek care, fearing the high costs of intensive and potentially painful surgery. However, most cases of chronic plantar fasciitis can be treated with less invasive procedures.
Understanding Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is caused by the inflammation of the thick band of tissue at the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. People who have plantar fasciitis may experience intermittent or recurring pain. This pain usually peaks in the morning and subsides throughout the day. Increased movement, even low-intensity movement, often brings relief.
Common Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
- Chronic or recurring heel pain
- Pain in the arch of one or both feet
- Stiffness in the foot
- A tight or inflamed Achilles tendon
Plantar Fasciitis and Related Complications
While plantar fasciitis is not a life-threatening condition, it can progress quickly. Ignoring plantar fasciitis can result in chronic and potentially irreversible heel pain, which can hinder mobility and make it more difficult to walk and perform everyday tasks.
Since plantar fasciitis can make walking difficult, many patients unintentionally change their posture and habits to relieve pain. These adjustments can cause more serious foot, knee, hip, and back problems.
Treating Plantar Fasciitis
Podiatrists can treat most cases of plantar fasciitis without the need for surgery. The most common treatments for plantar fasciitis include the following:
Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses pressure waves to stimulate a natural regenerative response. Under most circumstances, shockwave therapy takes place over the course of several weeks. Sessions usually last 5 to 10 minutes each and can yield rapid results.
Podiatrists sometimes employ laser therapy to treat and mitigate plantar fasciitis-related symptoms. Laser therapy can be “hot” or “cold.” While the efficacy of laser therapy varies between patients, treatment is ordinarily inexpensive and free of side effects.
The RICE method involves the following four steps:
Your podiatrist can help you understand how to perform the RICE method at home. Over time, therapy can relieve pressure and alleviate pain, especially for acute plantar fasciitis-related injuries.
Stretching exercises can relieve pain, strengthen the foot’s supporting muscles, and broadly reduce the inflammation characteristic of plantar fasciitis.
Custom orthotics are prescription devices designed by your podiatrist to match the contours of your feet and accentuate your movements. Some orthotics can help patients adjust their posture and stance.
Physical therapy is a time-tested and effective treatment for plantar fasciitis. Therapy may involve stretching exercises as well as the use of night splints, medication, and other conventional methods.
Plantar fasciitis taping is typically performed with zinc oxide-containing tape. This special tape can stabilize affected joints and limit movement. Tape therapy can provide short-term relief and limit further damage to affected muscle and tissue.
Night splints, which are put on before going to sleep and kept in place until morning, have been shown to significantly improve plantar fasciitis-related symptoms.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP) uses your body’s own cells to repair damaged tissue and muscle. PRP therapy is sometimes combined with other treatment strategies, including shockwave therapy, to maximize its effectiveness.
The Tenex procedure is a minimally invasive treatment. During a Tenex procedure, your podiatrist will use ultrasound technology and a special tool to remove accumulations of scar tissue and promote blood circulation.
The Tenex procedure is a relatively new technology, but it has a high success rate. Under most circumstances, patients who receive Tenex treatments begin feeling relief right away.