Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick, fibrous ligament in the arch of the foot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia attaches into the heel bone and fans out toward the ball of the foot, attaching into the base of the toes. If this ligament is stretched excessively it will become inflamed and begin to cause pain. In severe instances the ligament can rupture resulting in immediate severe pain. If the ligament ruptures the pain is so great that the patient can not place weight on the foot. Should this happen, the foot should be elevated and an ice pack applied. An appointment with your foot doctor should be made at your earliest convenience. Sports such as tennis, racket ball, and aerobics can cause extreme tension on the plantar fascia resulting in small tears or rupture of the ligament. However, other less stressful activities can result in tears or rupture of the plantar fascia under the right set of circumstances. (For a more through discussion of the cause of plantar fasciitis see heel pain) One consequence of small tears in the plantar fascia is the formation of firm nodules within the plantar fascia, called fibromas.
Taking a through history of the course of the condition and physical exam makes the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis.
Treatment of plantar fasciitis is similar to that for heel pain. Cortisone injections, used in the treatment of heel pain, are not commonly used for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. The main emphasis of treatment is to reduce the forces that are causing the plantar fascia to stretch excessively. This includes calf muscle stretching, over the counter arch supports, andorthotics. Oral anti-inflammatory medications may be useful in controlling the pain.
A prescription foot orthosis is an in-shoe brace which is designed to correct for abnormal foot and lower extremity function (the lower extremity includes the foot, ankle, leg, knee, thigh and hip). In correcting abnormal foot and lower extremity function, the prescription foot orthosis reduces the strain on injured structures in the foot and lower extremity, allowing them to heal and become non-painful. In addition, prescription foot orthoses help prevent future problems from occurring in the foot and lower extremity by reducing abnormal or pathological forces acting on the foot and lower extremity. A prescription foot orthosis is more commonly known by the public as a "foot orthotic".
Podiatrists prescribe two main types of prescription foot orthoses for their patients, accommodative orthoses and functional foot orthoses. Both types of prescription foot orthoses are used to correct the foot plant of the patient so that the pain in their foot or lower extremity will improve so that normal activities can be resumed without pain. However, accommodative and functional foot orthoses are generally made using different materials and may not look or feel the same. Both types of prescription foot orthoses are nearly always prescribed as a pair to allow more normal function of both feet [similar to having both the left and right wheels of a car realigned in a front end alignment].