Time for a short Latin lesson. In Latin, 'itis' means inflammation so whenever you see a syndrome ending in 'itis' you automatically know that it's some kind of inflammatory condition. So, 'fascitis' means inflammation of some sort of fascia - that is, the tough fibrous outer casing of some muscle. 'Plantar' refers to the foot, or more specifically the part of the foot we 'plant' when we walk - i.e. - the bottom of the foot. So Plantar Fascitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the fascia on the bottom of the foot. This is a particularly bothersome condition that has been know to hobble many elite athletes. If addressed early it is much easier to remedy than if it's left to develop into a chronic condition.
The Anatomy (images)
The plantar fascia originates on the front of the heel and runs lengthwise along the sole of the foot. It's related to the plantar muscles of the foot which curl the toes under and help support the arch of the foot. Now, the arch of the foot is supported primarily by the shape of the bones of the foot - the muscles don't have to do a whole lot to maintain the arch. However, sometimes over time the arch starts to collapse a bit which can cause the plantar fascia to become over stretched. This can often lead to inflammation and pain in the plantar fascia.
There are numerous factors which have to be accounted for when assessing the cause of plantar fascitis. Shoes, type of work, running habits and patterns and foot mechanics are all possible contributing causes of plantar fascitis.
Signs and Symptoms
What's Going On
For whatever reason, the plantar fascia has become inflamed and every time you stand on it you stretch that inflamed muscle. Pain is usually worse in the morning because during the night the muscle will often get tighter. The muscle shortens when we curl our toes or point our feet. While sleeping our feet are often in a position whereby the feet are pointed and this allows the plantar fascia to tighten. When we step out of bed in the morning the muscle is suddenly stretched and we feel extreme pain
When plantar fascitis becomes chronic a bone spur will often develop. Bone spurs are easily detected on x-rays. Bone spurs develop because the plantar fascia has pulled for a long period of time on it's attachment to the heel and the bone of the heel has reacted to the stress by depositing calcium at the attachment.
What To Do About It
As stated earlier, you really have to catch plantar fascitis before it becomes chronic so that you don't develop bone spurs. Don't wait in hopes that the pain will go way on it's own because early treatment is the most effective.
Treatment is variable but may consist of ultrasound, current, orthotics, manipulation of the bones of foot and home stretching and exercise. Some of the most useful home treatments are as follows:
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