As part of London Doctors Clinic‘s exercise week, we’re encouraging patients to look after their feet! Of course, sports like running will do the world of good to your overall health, but please make sure you’re wearing supportive shoes! Running on hard ground in flat shoes puts you at risk of developing foot conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis, as we’re about to discuss.
Don’t let your New Years’ Resolution of more exercise take your health one step forwards but two steps back!
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis (plant-ar fash-ee-eye-tuhs) is a painful condition of the heels, often seen in people who spend a lot of time on their feet. Around 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis in their lifetime and it can be massively frustrating to deal with. However there are ways of managing it which can help control the symptoms, that your GP can help guide you through.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue running from your heel–bone (calcaneum) to the bones of your middle foot. It’s important in maintaining the arch of your foot and in absorbing shock. In plantar fasciitis this becomes damaged and inflamed, leading to heel pain, particularly on walking.
The plantar fascia runs between the heel bone and middle foot
This is often seen in middle-aged people who are on their feet a lot, as well as younger people such as athletes. Things that make you more likely to get it are:
- High arches or flat feet
- Suddenly increasing the amount of time on your feet
- Suddenly increasing the intensity of impact on your feet (e.g. starting a new exercise routine)
- Feet that roll inward too much when walking
- Being overweight
- Wearing ill-fitting or inappropriate shoes
- Switching suddenly from usually wearing high-heeled shoes to flat shoes
- Tight Achilles tendons
Having ether high arches (centre) or flat feel (right) both put you at risk of deceloping plantar fasciitis
Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis causes severe heel pain, usually in one but sometimes both heels. The pain often occurs when people start walking – for example when they get out of bed or if they’ve been sitting for a long time. It may also get worse as they day goes on, especially on stairs or if you’ve spent a long time on your feet.
Diagnosign Plantar Fasciitis
If you have had the symptoms described above for more than a few weeks, it might be time to visit your GP surgery. A GP will examine your feet, observe you walking, and ask questions about your pain, your daily activities and previous injuries and illnesses. Usually this is enough for diagnosis, however they may wish to take an X-ray to rule out a fracture.
If you have other symptoms such as swelling, numbness or a temperature, they may want to take blood tests to investigate other causes such as arthritis.
A foot X-ray may be recommended to rule out the possibility of a fractured calcaneus causing the pain
Preventing Plantar Fasciitis
Maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and regular exercise is very important in preventing undue strain on the heels. It’s also important to keep wearing supportive, cushioned shoes with a low to moderate heel.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Unfortunately there is no cure – most treatment is about trying to decrease inflammation in the plantar fascia and loosen up the tissues of the foot. This involves taking care of your feet – especially avoiding long periods on on hard surfaces.
It’s also an excuse to buy new shoes, preferably with good arch support and a cushioned sole. You can also use insoles, but remember to wear them in both shoes, even if only one foot is painful.
The classic ballet pump – although a fashion staple – is completely flat and provides no support for the arches of your feet!
Physiotherapy plays a big role and your doctor will likely direct you to a number of daily stretches and exercises to help control the symptoms. To control swelling in the short term, applying ice to the heel may help, as will the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen.
If none of this works, there are the options of steroid injections or surgery, but that is unlikely – only around 1 in 20 patients need an operation. The key is to stick with the treatment over time, even if it feels like it isn’t helping! It may take up to a year for the pain to fully go away, however if it gets worse or the symptoms are affecting your quality of life significantly, check back in with your private GP. You can book an affordable and convenient appointment with LDC – and with eight private clinics, we’re never far away when you search for a “doctor near me“.
By Selali Fiamanya