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Plantar Fasciitis: Foot and Heel Pain

  • What is plantar fasciitis?

    Plantar fasciitis (pronounced fas-ee-eye-tus) is a swelling of the band of muscle (called the plantar fascia) under the foot that supports the arch. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain and can occur in one or both feet.

  • Plantar fasciitis is caused by strain to the plantar fascia under the foot. The cause could be degenerative or a previous injury. It can occur if you wear poor footwear, eg. shoes with thin soles or shoes without sufficient support. Other causes include:

    • Returning to strenuous activity after a long period of rest
    • Having a short calf muscle
    • Having poor ankle range of motion

    Middle-aged people are most commonly affected.

  • The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is ‘first step pain’, which is pain that occurs when you take your first steps after getting up in the morning. There may also be swelling of the foot.

  • Treatment includes:

    • Modifying your activities and stretching your calf muscle
    • Painkillers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Resting your foot and applying ice (to reduce inflammation)
    • Wearing more comfortable and supportive footwear, including an insole (orthotic) to support your arch

    If the pain continues after undergoing the above measures, your doctor may offer steroid injections.

    Most general practitioners (GPs) can treat plantar fasciitis, but if the pain persists, you should consult an orthopaedic surgeon, who will be able to provide you specialist treatment and advise you on a suitable treatment programme.

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  • If you have plantar fasciitis, you should avoid physical activity during an acute injury. If you have chronic heel pain, you can do light exercises while wearing supportive footwear. Stretching your calf muscles daily helps if you wear high heels.

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