Plantar Fasciitis Arch Pain

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a thick, fibrous ligament in the arch of the foot called the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia attaches into the heel bone and fans out toward the ball of the foot, attaching into the base of the toes. If this ligament is stretched excessively it will become inflamed and begin to cause pain. In severe instances the ligament can rupture resulting in immediate severe pain. If the ligament ruptures the pain is so great that the patient can not place weight on the foot. Should this happen, the foot should be elevated and an ice pack applied. An appointment with your foot doctor should be made at your earliest convenience. Sports such as tennis, racket ball, and aerobics can cause extreme tension on the plantar fascia resulting in small tears or rupture of the ligament. However, other less stressful activities can result in tears or rupture of the plantar fascia under the right set of circumstances. (For a more through discussion of the cause of plantar fasciitis see heel pain) One consequence of small tears in the plantar fascia is the formation of firm nodules within the plantar fascia, called fibromas.

Diagnosis

Achilles tendonitis is diagnosed by a history and physical examination of the patient who describes pain at the back of the ankle with walking and/or running activities. The pain generally will be associated with an increase in running or jumping intensity or frequency. It is also often associated with a change from running in a thick heeled shoe to a thin heeled shoe, such as going from training shoes to racing flats and/or racing spikes in cross-country and/or track. The pain from Achilles tendonitis is often so severe that running is impossible and even walking is uncomfortable.

During the physical examination, the podiatrist will feel and push lightly around the Achilles tendon to see if it is tender or has any irregularities in its surface. Achilles tendonitis may cause the tendon to be thickened in areas, may cause swelling of the area around the tendon, and can even feel like the tendon has a painful bump on it. In addition, the person with Achilles tendonitis will limp while barefoot, but walk more normally with heeled shoes on. X-rays are not helpful in diagnosing Achilles tendonitis but may be taken to rule-out other pathology. MRI scans are only indicated if a partial or complete rupture of the Achilles tendon is suspected by the podiatrist.

Treatment

Achilles tendonitis generally responds very well to conservative treatment as long as it is diagnosed and treated early. Surgery is rarely indicated unless the Achilles tendonitis is particularly severe and chronic, or if the tendon has ruptured completely.

Initially, the podiatrist may treat the Achilles tendonitis by putting heel lifts into the patient’s shoes. In addition, the patient may be asked to avoid barefoot walking or walking in low-heeled shoes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) may also be prescribed to calm the inflammatory process in the tendon. Icing may be suggested to help decrease the inflammation and pain in the tendon. Stretching exercises for the calf muscles may also be given to the patient to help loosen the calf muscle and Achilles tendon so that the tendon is not under as much stress during normal daily walking activities. The stretching should not be done however if it causes pain in the Achilles tendon.

Initially, the patient with Achilles tendonitis will be asked to modify their activities to decrease their running and jumping activities and do alternative physical activities, such as swimming, which don’t put as much stress on the Achilles tendon. As the tendon starts to feel better, the podiatrist will allow a gradual return to normal running and jumping activities. If normal return to activities is not possible within a few weeks, then many times the podiatrist may additionally prescribe physical therapy and/or functional foot orthotics to help the tendon heal more rapidly. The foot orthotics generally are used during both the sports activities and walking activities to allow for more normal foot and Achilles tendon function. If the physician is concerned about a partial tear of the tendon the patient may be placed in a below the knee cast. It can take several weeks or even months for the tendon to heal depending upon the severity of the injury to the tendon. It is not uncommon for a patient to return to activities too quickly and re-injure the tendon. Careful monitoring of a return to full activity is important and the patient must have patience during this period of time.