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What Is Plantar Fasciitis And How Does It Happen?

When you see the suffix “-itis” used in terms of anatomy, such as tonsillitis or tendinitis, it means that the body part in question has become inflamed. Plantar fasciitis therefore is the swelling of the Plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting your heels to your toes. The Plantar fascia is one of the most commonly used ligaments in the human body, so it is not surprising that Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain as well. Most of us will experience Plantar fasciitis at least once in our lives, even if we never realise it.

The pain associated with Plantar fasciitis is usually described as a stabbing sensation in the heel. This pain is typically at its worst in the morning, but tends to subside as we begin to move about. It generally does not occur during periods of physical activity, but returns afterwards, or during extended periods of rest.

The purpose of the Plantar fascia is to act as a shock-absorber, and to support the arches of our feet, particularly when bearing weight. It is possible that the Plantar fascia could be responsible for bearing up to 14% of the total weight load on the feet. Plantar fasciitis occurs when it is put under too much stress, usually as a result of being repeatedly overstretched. Each time we stretch a ligament to its limit, some of the tiny fibres that comprise it tear. While a small number of these fibres tearing is completely normal, the pain arises when more fibres are being torn than replaced, which leads to irritation and inflammation. 

Although Plantar fasciitis can affect anyone, there are certainly risk factors that make some people more likely to develop the condition than others. For example, it is most common people between the ages of 40 and 60. But being most common in a particular age group doesn’t mean it is uncommon in others. Athletes of any age who engage in sports that involve a lot of footwork, such as running, jumping, or dancing, are also quite likely to experience the condition as well, as these activities stretch and tear the Plantar fascia as described above. The same can be said for people who work jobs that have them on their feet for extended periods of time, such as nurses or waiters. People who are overweight are also more at-risk, as the extra weight places added stress on the ligament when moving.

Finally, the mechanics of your feet can mean you are predisposed to developing this condition. People with high or fallen arches are more likely to cause damage to the Plantar fascia, as are people with an improper stance or gait, or people who walk on the insides of their feet, known as overpronation. For all of these reasons, it is important to make sure you have the right shoes for your foot type, as improper footwear can exacerbate or speed up the development of Plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis can be an uncomfortable condition, but it is not considered to be a dangerous one. With adequate rest and some stretching, most cases of Plantar fasciitis will go away in a few months or less. Click here to learn more about how to deal with Plantar fasciitis at home, see this blog to see how your diet could be affecting Plantar fasciitis.