What’s one thing Peyton Manning, President Obama, Joakim Noah, Albert Pujols, and 1 in 10 Americans have in common?
Photo Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
While NFL fans (Broncos fans, in particular) are likely familiar with this debilitating affliction, it remains relatively unknown in mainstream America. An estimated 10% of Americans experience severe foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis each year, but only 1 million have actually visited with a specialist to determine the cause of their discomfort.
What is it?
Plantar fasciitis refers to tiny tears and inflammation occurring in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes. It is characterized by sharp, stabbing pains that radiate throughout the foot, causing discomfort to the heel, arches, and toes. Plantar fasciitis can onset rapidly or develop gradually over time, but the end result is always the same: severe foot pain and compromised mobility.
What causes it?
While anyone – from star quarterbacks to 9-5 office workers – can develop plantar fasciitis, it is more often found in individuals whose daily routines consist of walking, standing, or running for extended periods of time. When coupled with wearing shoes that offer poor arch support (think high heels or flip flops) or being overweight, this normal wear and tear can result in painful inflammation of the plantar fascia. Additionally, individuals who have excessive pronation (a tendency to roll their feet inward while they walk) are at increased risk of plantar fasciitis, as their gait places extra stress on the sensitive connective tissue of the foot.
How to prevent it?
An old adage states “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this is certainly true with plantar fasciitis, as it is a difficult affliction to effectively treat. The best way to prevent this sort of debilitating foot pain is by making sure that your feet are receiving the support that they need. This means minimizing time spent in unsupportive shoes like high heels and flip-flops, opting instead for footwear that provides a good amount of arch support. You should also be careful to replace shoes (particularly sneakers) when they have become worn out, as they no longer have the ability to protect the plantar fascia.
Regular stretching and massaging can also work wonders in preventing plantar fasciitis. Gently massaging the lower leg and bottom of the foot can help to relieve tension placed on the plantar fascia, keeping it pliable and less susceptible to injury. You can do this with your hands or by placing a tennis ball under the foot and gently rolling it around. Icing the foot and leg following strenuous physical activity has also proven to be beneficial.
How to treat plantar fasciitis?
If your feet are constantly in pain, it might be too late to try to prevent the onset of plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, there are a number of home remedies that can help reduce or eliminate the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. In addition to performing the stretching and massaging mentioned before, orthotic insoles are widely recommended, as they provide much needed arch support throughout the day and greatly reduce the stress placed on the plantar fascia. These insoles are relatively inexpensive, and compatible with most types of shoes.
Foot splints are another popular treatment option, as they can be worn overnight to help combat foot pain. These splints stabilize the foot and toes and gently stretch the plantar fascia ligament, helping to strengthen and soothe it. For extreme cases, your doctor may recommend cortisone injections.