The plantar fascia is a sturdy structure but the degree of stress that it takes makes it susceptible to injury. A force equal to almost three times body weight passes through the foot with each step. On running, this typically happens about 90 times a minute. Plantar fasciitis is thought to be a traction and overuse injury. Damage to the plantar fascia is usually in the form of micro-tears. It is a degenerative rather than an inflammatory process. Damage tends to occur near the heel, where stress on the fibres is greatest, and where the fascia is the thinnest. The fascia broadens as it extends toward the toes.
Plantar fasciitis is often associated with calcaneal spurs. These are depositions of calcium where the fascia suffers most damage. Spurs are most commonly on the medial side at the origin of the fascia from the calcaneum. Spurs are the result of the process of plantar fasciitis and not the cause of the pain. It can present bilaterally.
Over-stretching or tearing the arch pad causes the dull ache that is associated with arch pain. Pain is most keenly felt when weight is put onto the foot, or when pushing off the foot into the next stride. The pain of foot arch strain can be particularly acute after sitting for a long time, or when getting up in the morning. Those most susceptible to the condition are people with very high, rigid arches. The injury is also common in middle-aged people who have been inactive for a long period of time before suddenly increasing their physical activity. The injury is particularly common in runners and joggers.
The primary symptom is pain or aching in the arch area. This can be accompanied by inflammation and tenderness. If the pain is caused by the plantar fascia, it is likely to be considerably more severe in the mornings due to the muscles being unused.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can show tendon injury and inflammation but cannot be relied on with 100% accuracy and confidence. The technique and skill of the radiologist in properly positioning the foot with the MRI beam are critical in demonstrating the sometimes obscure findings of tendon injury around the ankle. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is expensive and is not necessary in most cases to diagnose posterior tibial tendon injury. Ultrasound has also been used in some cases to diagnose tendon injury, but this test again is usually not required to make the initial diagnosis.
Non Surgical Treatment
For mild pain or aching, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) may be effective. When there are no symptoms, treatment is not needed. If a child older than age 3 develops symptoms, the doctor may prescribe a therapeutic shoe insert made from a mold of the child’s foot or a corrective shoe. As an alternative, some doctors recommend store-bought arch supports. These appear to work as well as more expensive treatments in many children. With any conservative, nonsurgical treatment, the goal is to relieve pain by supporting the arch and correcting any imbalance in the mechanics of the foot. Surgery is typically offered as a last resort in people with significant pain that is resistant to other therapies.
Patients with adult acquired flatfoot are advised to discuss thoroughly the benefits vs. risks of all surgical options. Most procedures have long-term recovery mandating that the correct procedure be utilized to give the best long-term benefit. Most flatfoot surgical procedures require six to twelve weeks of cast immobilization. Joint fusion procedures require eight weeks of non-weightbearing on the operated foot, meaning you will be on crutches for two months. The bottom line is: Make sure all of your non-surgical options have been covered before considering surgery. Your primary goals with any treatment are to eliminate pain and improve mobility. In many cases, with the properly designed foot orthosis or ankle brace, these goals can be achieved without surgical intervention.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, according to MayoClinic.com. If your workouts are long and strenuous, drink a carbohydrate-based electrolyte beverage too. Warm up the muscles of your feet before you work out. A simple exercise is to write the letters of the alphabet with your toes. Perform the warm up with bare feet and exaggerate the movements to challenge your muscles. Wear properly fitted shoes. Visit a sporting goods store and get your feet and arches measured. Ask for help selecting a pair of shoes to fit your workout. For instance, if you play soccer, you need cleats, not running shoes. Take a break. Cramps can be your body’s way of telling you you’re exercising too much, according to MayoClinic.com. Rest for a few days, then resume exercise and see if you can complete a workout without arch cramps. Stretch. At the end of your workout, perform a few stretching exercises to keep your muscles from tightening and cramping. Sit down, lean over and grasp your toes. Pull the toes toward your body until you feel tension in the arch of your foot. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Another easy way to stretch your arch is to put a towel on the floor, curl your toes around it and pull it toward your body.
Gastroc stretch. Stand on the edge of a step. Rise slowly on your toes. Lower yourself slowly as far as you can until you feel a stretch in your calf. Don?t roll your foot inward or outward. Hold for 1-2 seconds. Reps:10-20 (stop before you fatigue). Soleus stretch. Same as above, but start with your knee bent so that you feel a slight stretch in your calf or achilles. Maintain the angle of your knee throughout the stretch. Bicycle stretch. Lie on your side. Keeping your top leg straight, bring your knee toward your nose until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstring. Maintaining this angle at your hip, start pretending you are pedalling a bicycle with the top leg. Make sure you feel a slight stretch each time your knee is straight. Reps: 10-30 for each leg. If you feel any pops or clicks in your hip or back, try raising the top leg a little (making the thighs further apart) to eliminate the popping. Foot Intrinsic Exercises. Assisted metatarsal head raising. Sit in a chair. Find the bumps at the ball of your foot just before your big toe and just before the little toe. These are the first (big toe) and fifth (little toe) metatarsal heads. Place your second and third fingers from one hand under the first metatarsal head, and the second and third fingers from the other hand under the fifth metatarsal head. Now lay the thumbs from each hand in a diagonal across your toes so that they form a right angle meeting at the nail of the second toe. Your hands are now in position to assist your toes. Keep your toes straight, with the toe pads on the floor. Use your fingers to help raise all the metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot). Do not let your toes curl under keep them long. Now relax. Reps 7-10 for each foot. As this exercise gets easier, let your fingers do less of the work until your toes can do the exercise unassisted. This can take up to three weeks. When your strength has improved to this point, you can progress to the following three exercises, which are best done in stocking feet on a slippery floor. Active metatarsal head raising. Stand with your weight on both feet. Raise your metatarsal heads (the ball of your foot) while keeping your toes from curling under and maintaining your heel on the ground. Relax. Reps 6-7. Do one foot at a time. If you do more reps than you are ready for, you may well develop cramping in your foot. I once had a client who thought if seven reps were good, 10 were better. For good measure, she did the 10 reps 10 times in a day, and then she was unable to walk the next day from having used a set of muscles she had never exercised before. Don?t overdo it.