Coping with chronic heal pain can be a real pain in the, well, foot. Diagnosing exactly what the issue is can also be difficult without a proper medical examination. However, a likely culprit will be plantar fasciitis – a chronic, weight bearing, repetitive microtrauma pathology that can lead to degeneration and inflammation. Whether it be a shooting pain up your leg, a stabbing pain in the base of your foot or a dull ache in your heel, plantar fasciitis causes different symptoms and levels of pain amongst patients.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain, and is brought on when a thick band of tissue across the bottom of your foot (called the plantar fascia) becomes inflamed. Since the condition takes a long time to develop, this inflammation is typically caused as a result of a sports-related activity or due to a poor choice of footwear.

However, there are other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the condition. These typically include obesity (as the added weight puts extra stress on your feet), age and standing for long periods of time. 

What are its symptoms?

The most commonly reported symptom is a stabbing pain that usually occurs after you’ve just stood up and started the day. Once you’re up and moving around, the pain normally lessens but returns later on after a long period of standing, or when rising to stand from a seated position.

The pain also seems to get worse when exercising, so the plantar fasciitis is said to be particularly common in athletes competing in sports that involve running or jumping.

How is it diagnosed?

Many cases of plantar fasciitis can be self-diagnosed using an online symptom checker. However, getting the condition looked at by a professional is the only real way of knowing for sure whether the problem is plantar fasciitis or something else entirely.

To diagnose the issue correctly, an experienced podiatrist will use a specialised imaging procedure called a Diagnostic Foot Ultrasound. This will produce an accurate image of your foot’s interior structure which will, in turn, allow the trained expert to pinpoint the exact cause of the issue.

The system uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a picture of all the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in your foot. Now, while this may all sound technical and scary, it really is anything but. The procedure is completely painless and only takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete. Plus, once it’s over and done with, the podiatrist will provide you with a tailored treatment plan and expert advice to resolve the issue.

What are the treatment options?

Many of the best ways of treating plantar fasciitis come from home-based treatments. As a general rule, you should make sure to invest in some supportive footwear and use an ice pack whenever the pain arises. You should also rest your foot when you can, and avoid standing up for too long. Coupled with this rest, you should try a number of daily stretching exercises to improve your plantar fascia’s ability to bear your weight when next up and about.

For more severe cases of plantar fasciitis, wearing a night splint is recommended. This helps to brace your foot and ankle in the correct position while you sleep, stretching the plantar fascia and helping ease the pain.

If none of these techniques make a difference to the pain after several months, a surgical procedure may be required. Steroid injections, shock wave therapy and plantar fascia removal are all examples of these, but they are only really needed if the chronic heel pain becomes too much to handle.

If you are suffering from chronic heel pain in the Sussex area and would like to have the issue looked at by a professional, contact us today. Our friendly team of podiatrists and chiropodists are specialists in identifying and treating a whole range of lower limb-related issues. Resolving your foot pain is only a phone call away.  

Jonathan Collins Specialist Podiatrist