Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes pain in the heel.
A thick, strong band of tissue called the plantar fascia supports the arch of the foot. This tissue can become damaged or inflamed, causing pain and difficulty moving the foot.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, plantar fasciitis accounts for about 80% of cases of heel pain. An estimated 10% of people will experience this problem during their lifetime.
What causes plantar fasciitis?
The function of the plantar fascia is to absorb the impact of standing, walking, and running on the foot. This part of the body gets a lot of use, and too much pressure can damage the plantar fascia.
Women are more likely than men to experience plantar fasciitis. It is not clear why, but it may be because certain risk factors for the condition — such as pregnancy and wearing unsupportive shoes — affect women more than men.
The plantar fascia runs along the sole from the toes to the bottom of the heel. Excessive pressure on this part of the foot can cause small tears in the tissue. This damage leads to inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a pain in the plantar fascia. The focus of the pain is usually near the heel, where it can feel as though the tissue is tearing.
The pain may develop gradually over time. It can be worse after a period of rest, for example, first thing in the morning or after a long journey. Alternatively, the pain may worsen after exercise or activity.
Stretches and exercises that work out the leg or foot muscles can help ease the pain of plantar fasciitis and encourage healing. These exercises include foot flexes, calf stretches, curling a towel between the toes, and picking up marbles with the toes.
Resting the foot, applying ice to the area, compressing with a bandage, and raising the foot on cushions or a low stool can help. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce pain and swelling. Some people may find that foot massage also helps alleviate foot pain.
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