Q&A Topic: Plantar Fasciitis

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Kurt Voellmicke, MD, FAAOS

Q. Do I have plantar fasciitis?

A. Though most common in people between the ages of 40 to 60 years old, it can occur at any age. In fact, around 1 in 10 people will develop plantar fasciitis at some point in their life.  If you feel pain underneath your heel when you take your first steps in the morning, you may have plantar fasciitis. The name might be tough to remember, but the pain is all too recognizable. The ligament, which is known as the plantar fascia, runs from your heel to the ball of your foot, supporting the arch. Without this ligament, your foot would be a pancake. At night your foot is relaxed and the ligament stiffens up. It stretches suddenly when you stand up in the morning. When torn, this ligament can become extremely painful and tender to touch, making it difficult to walk or exercise.

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Q. What causes plantar fasciitis?

A. If you are on your feet for long periods of time, plantar fasciitis might be causing your foot pain. Injury can result from running on rough surfaces, jogging on a treadmill at a steep incline, playing tennis, basketball, or any number of activities that involve impact on the feet. Plantar fasciitis might also occur due to poor cushioning or lack of arch support from footwear.

Q. When will pain caused from plantar fasciitis subside?

A. Plantar fasciitis can plague you with heel pain for months unless you take measures to relieve it. This is the reason the injury is so persistent—people fail to be proactive in taking measures that allow healing. It’s important to see an orthopedist for a proper diagnosis—as every individual is different. Treating plantar fasciitis takes time and care. Northern Westchester Hospital orthopedists typically recommend cushioned arch support in footwear, stretching the arch before standing up, and icing each day. About 90 percent of patients will improve in a year or less if they stick to this regimen.

Q. Is there an effective stretching technique you can recommend to relieve pain?

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A. Try crossing the injured foot over the opposite knee, and then pulling back on the big toe so that the foot stretches back toward the shin. With your other hand, massage the tender spot to help it loosen up and increase blood flow to the area. This expedites the heeling, but it’s important to do it before you stand up.

Q. What if non-surgical methods of treatment fail?

A. Some patients might need more invasive treatments such as cortisone injections, surgery, or shockwave therapy to assist healing, but that’s the exception. The basic treatments will work, as long as you know that it will take a while. Commit, be patient and it will go away.

Learn More About Dr. Voellmicke
Director, Foot and Ankle Section
Orthopedic and Spine Institute
Northern Westchester Hospital

Read Past Topics from Dr. Voellmicke:
Ankle Sprains
Feet That Go Flat

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