Heel Pain: Most Common Cause is Plantar Fasciitis

The tough band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes is called the plantar fascia.  It supports the arch of your foot, and when it becomes irritated or degenerated, then you have what is called plantar fasciitis (other names include: plantar fasciosis, which indicates degeneration, and plantar fasciopathy, which includes both degeneration and the inflammation indicated by plantar fasciitis).  This condition affects up to 2 million Americans each year.

Runners or people who are on their feet for long periods of time often get plantar fasciitis.  Also, people who are middle-aged, overweight or pregnant are susceptible to getting plantar fasciitis.  One of the most common symptoms of plantar fasciitis is foot pain in the morning getting out of bed or foot pain after getting up following prolonged sitting.  Once the foot loosens up it usually gets better unless you spend a lot of time on your feet or go running.

How can you get better?

Drugs to reduce inflammation are commonly prescribed and should help if the cause of the pain from plantar fasciitis is inflammation.  However, most long term plantar fasciitis is likely caused by degeneration of your plantar fascia, and in that case, medication to reduce inflammation will be ineffective to resolve the condition, although it may give some temporary pain relief. Rest, splints, stretches and modified shoes are also commonly recommended. Again, these treatments may also be effective if the condition is caused by inflammation, however, they will not be effective if the plantar fasciitis is caused by degeneration.

Plantar fasciitis caused by degeneration will often recur when resting is over, splints are removed, stretching is stopped or different shoes are worn.   Modifiying your lifestyle can help in certain cases, but the downside is that you have to keep it up.  To me, that is an indication that you haven’t cured the underlying problem, but rather you are constantly treating the symptoms and you are learning to live with the inconvenience.

Although it is not fully understood, researchers and a growing number of health care professionals recognize that almost all cases of chronic plantar fasciitis are due to degeneration of the plantar fascia, and treatment should involve stimulating regeneration of the affected tissue.  This link will show you some of the scientific evidence – histologic findings – that confirm this view: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12756315.  Right now, there are very few approaches that focus on regenerating healthy tissue.  However, a good treatment option that focuses on stimulating regeneration and has a high rate of success for plantar fasciitis is Astym treatment.   You can see what Astym treatment is like by clicking here:  http://astym.com/video

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