Plantar fasciitis is a prevalent condition affecting the foot, primarily causing discomfort in the heel and often extending across the sole and into the foot's arch.

Identifying Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

The primary indicator of plantar fasciitis is a pronounced pain in the heel, sole, or arch of the foot. This discomfort typically presents as a sharp, burning, or aching sensation that gradually develops. It's most acute when initially placing weight on the foot after resting or being inactive for a significant period, such as getting up in the morning or standing after prolonged sitting. The pain often exacerbates with extended periods of walking, standing, or jogging.

Causes and Risk Factors

This condition stems from damage to the foot ligament, which can be a natural aspect of ageing. It's frequently seen in individuals over 40, although other factors can contribute, particularly those involving excessive or prolonged stress on the ligament. Key risk factors include:

  • Prolonged standing
  • Long-distance jogging or running
  • Abruptly increasing running distances
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Wearing unsuitable footwear, such as non-cushioned shoes
  • Extended periods of walking barefoot

Physical attributes that might contribute include being overweight, having flat feet or high arches, a tight Achilles tendon, or conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis

Diagnosis typically involves reviewing the patient's medical history and activities, coupled with a physical examination. In more severe cases, additional imaging tests like X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI may be necessary to exclude more serious conditions like fractures or tumours.

Effective Treatments for Plantar Fasciitis

Treatment is tailored to the severity of symptoms and ligament damage. It may include medication for inflammation reduction. However, non-medicinal approaches are also effective, such as:

  • Orthotic devices (arch supports or heel cushions) to alleviate ligament strain
  • Physiotherapy, focusing on stretching the foot, ankle, and Achilles tendon

Persistent symptoms unresponsive to these treatments may necessitate steroid injections, which are successful in over 98% of cases. However, they may take up to 18 months to fully work, with a possibility of symptom recurrence. Surgery is considered only in the most severe cases.