what is plantar fasciitis

If you ever step out of bed in the morning and feel a sharp, knife-like shooting pain in your heel, there’s a good chance you have a condition called “plantar fasciitis.”

It’s the most common cause of heel pain — and it can be excruciating. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 2 million people undergo treatment for plantar fasciitis each year.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia — a strong band of tissue, or ligament, that stretches from the heel to the middle foot bones — supports the foot and acts as a shock absorber. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this ligament becomes irritated and inflamed.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is overuse and overloading the plantar fascia. However, improper footwear, obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritisaging, and foot structure also may contribute to this condition.

RELATED: Managing Flat Feet: Symptoms, Treatment, and Risks

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Are You at Risk of Developing Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is common in both professional athletes and “weekend warriors,” and it affects men and women equally. People who are on their feet for long periods of time such as dancers, teachers, runners, soldiers, or waiters are at greater risk than those who are not as active.

What Are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Pain is the hallmark symptom of plantar fasciitis, and it can occur anywhere on the underside of the heel. Gentle exercise may ease things a little as the day goes by, but a long walk often makes the pain worse.

What Is the Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis?

“Patients often improve after six to nine months of non-surgical treatment, including rest, anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation, applying cold compresses, splinting and therapy (stretching) programs, and shock wave treatment to soften and break down scar tissue and reduce inflammation,” says  Periklis A. Papapetropoulos, MD, a foot and ankle surgeon at Orthopaedic Specialists –UPMC. “As for shoes, I recommend wearing flat shoes.”

Dr. Papapetropoulos also recommends using orthotic insoles. “Your podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon can evaluate the foot and ankle and actually prescribe custom-made orthotics to help with arch support in the foot,” he says.

During recovery, it’s important to reduce or eliminate activities that cause discomfort until the pain and inflammation ease. If you start using your plantar fascia before it has a chance to heal properly (even though it may feel better), you can end up doing a lot more damage than good!

What If Treatment Doesn’t Ease Your Heel Pain?

Surgery may be considered if nonsurgical treatments do not bring relief within nine months.

Convenient Orthopaedic Care, Close to Home

Dr. Papapetropoulos sees patients at the UPMC Outpatient Center on Lebanon Church Road in West Mifflin. In additional to seeing patients in West Mifflin, he has office hours in Monroeville and McKeesport.

To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call 1-877-471-0935.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Orthopaedic Care

When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.