Plantar Fasciitis Common, Painful, Treatable
Q:My doctor diagnosed me with plantar fasciitis several months ago and it still bothers me. Will it ever go away?
A:Plantar fasciitis is aptly named: it is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot running from the heel to the base of the toes. As you know only too well, the inflammation results in pain in the heel, typically worst with the first morning steps or after extended periods of sitting and then dissipating after walking a bit; but it may progress throughout the day.
Dr. Richard Marks is an orthopedic surgeon, Director of the Division of Foot & Ankle Surgery and the Foot & Ankle Fellowship, and an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
He notes that plantar fasciitis is more common as we age, in the overweight, after an episode of strenuous walking or running, in individuals with tight heelcords, flat feet, or high arches, and when shoes fit poorly or have lost their support.
Dr. Marks tells me that, very likely, your plantar fasciitis will go away, although it may take 8-16 weeks to do so. He employs a number of different therapies in his work with patients who experience this condition: stretching exercises, change of footwear, specific training techniques for the athlete, and sometimes initial rest from activities.
Often, he prescribes an “anti-inflammatory” medication like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or a night splint. Physical therapists can help teach the stretching exercises, which should be performed 4-5 times per day. Occasionally, a shoe insert is helpful. In severe cases, Dr. Marks injects cortisone or plans a surgery to remove the degenerated fascia.
Julie L. Mitchell, MD, MS, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She practices internal medicine at the Froedtert & Medical College General Internal Medicine Clinic – East.