Plantar heel pain – what is it and what to do about it
1 in 10 of us will suffer from heel pain at some point in our lives and it most definitely something we are used to seeing here at Hong Kong Sports Clinic.
The most common cause of plantar heel pain is due to irritation or degeneration of the plantar fascia, often referred to as plantar fasciopathy or plantar fasciitits. The plantar fascia is a strong ligament-like structure that attaches from your heel bone and extends to the base of each of your toes. It acts as a shock absorber and helps support the arch of your foot when walking and running.
Common features of plantar fasciopathy are:
- Heel pain with the first few steps on getting out of bed or after sitting for a while that will ease the more you walk.
- Pain most commonly located at the insertion of plantar fascia onto the heel bone, sometimes with pain extending along the arch of your foot.
Plantar fasciopathy is almost always the result of overuse or over-loading of the plantar fascia. Examples of this are:
- Runners who have increased their weekly mileage, or have added sprints or hill sessions into their training.
- A new job that involves standing for long periods during the day.
- Being overweight
Some people may not fit into any of the above scenarios and in these cases you might suspect that the capacity of their plantar fascia has reduced, with hormonal changes, getting older, and stress as potential contributors.
Treatment will normally involve managing how much you are loading the plantar fascia. If you are a runner this may involve having to reduce your mileage, or backing off from any sprinting or hill sessions. Strengthening and stretching exercises, in combination with ice, taping and looking at your footwear have also all been found to be helpful.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix with plantar fasciopathy and you should expect at least a few weeks of rehab, with the more stubborn cases sometimes requiring a few months before you are totally pain-free. Studies have shown that if you’ve had pain for more than 7 months your prognosis is not as good, so don’t delay coming into the clinic to start treatment.
The outcome is always better the quicker we can nip things in the bud!