Plantar fasciitis is a condition in which the connective tissues in the bottom of the foot, known as the plantar fascia, swell and become irritated. It is often brought on by tight calves and repetitive motion, such as running or walking. Many cases clear up within a few weeks with rest, some stretches, and regular icing treatments. But sometimes plantar fasciitis lingers, causing ongoing symptoms for months or years. If you have a stubborn case of lingering plantar fasciitis, here's a look at your treatment options.
Your legs may be built in a way that puts extra strain on your plantar fascia as you walk. Similarly, you may have weak calves that are forcing your plantar fascia to take on extra strain -- yet you can't get active to strengthen your calves because of the pain in your foot. In cases like these, your podiatrist may recommend having some custom orthotics made. These are inserts you can place in your shoes; they alter the way your foot sits in the shoe and how your foot strikes the ground. Most patients notice that their symptoms start to ease within a few weeks of wearing the orthotics. You may need to wear them for the rest of your life to prevent the plantar fasciitis from coming back -- or perhaps you'll be able to do away with them after some physical therapy to strengthen your foot.
If your podiatrist feels that your plantar fasciitis is due to muscle weakness or imbalances in certain areas of your foot or leg, they will likely recommend physical therapy. This is often combined with orthotics for increased effectiveness and faster relief. Your physical therapist will have you perform certain stretches to loosen up your plantar fascia. They may also have you do exercises like calf raises, toe flexes, and squats to strengthen certain muscles.
Sadly, there are some very stubborn cases of plantar fasciitis that don't respond to physical therapy or orthotics. If yours is one of them, your podiatrist may recommend surgery. The plantar fascia ligament will be cut to relieve the tension and inflammation. Sometimes, bony growths in the heel bone, known as bone spurs, contribute to the plantar fasciitis by irritating the plantar fascia. If this is found to be the case with your foot, the bone spurs can also be surgically removed to prevent subsequent pain and tightness.