Taking healthy steps: The best way to deal with plantar fasciitis is to avoid getting it in the first place
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With the arrival of spring, I know I’ll be diagnosing more patients with plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is a pain in the heel or arch of the foot.

The first cause I think about is overexercising. When the sun comes out and you begin to think about outdoor fun, you might be inspired to start exercising or increase the amount of running you are used to doing.

Sudden increases in activity may cause the plantar fascia, which extends along the sole of the foot from the heel to the toes, to react by becoming inflamed. You can avoid plantar fasciitis by not overdoing.

Currently, the doors to our Downtown Eugene Medical Office display signs that say “Getting Out is In.” Perhaps each one should have an asterisk that says, “But Be Smart About It.”

Being smart means adding activity gradually. Your feet will thank you, and you won’t be making an appointment to see me.

Plantar fasciitis also may be caused by being overweight or gaining weight, wearing shoes with poor arch support, not stretching tight calf muscles or not building up to standing for long periods of time.

For example, I switched from a traditional work desk to a stand-up model. I wanted to be healthier in my work life, but I knew I might stress my feet. I didn’t want to trade sitting for constant heel pain, which is why I made doubly sure that my footwear was comfortable and supportive. With some planning, I got through the transition with no problem.

Planning is required if you have had a desk job — for example, working at a call center — but now will be a server in a restaurant, where you’ll be walking a lot more.

In all cases, avoid flats, sandals, heels or flip flops that lack arch support. Don’t go barefoot, either. Buy the best quality shoes that you can afford and consider adding inserts to your current shoes so you have good arch support. If you add inserts, put them in both shoes for even support.

Be consistent in doing calf and foot stretches. Our muscles get tighter as we age, resulting in stress on our tendons and ligaments. One stretching exercise may be done before getting out of bed in the morning. Loop a towel around the ball of your foot. Pull back on the towel, pulling your foot toward your knee while keeping your knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds, relax and repeat five times for each foot.

Finally, if you need to lose weight, start today, because every lost pound will give you happier feet.

If you do develop heel pain from any cause, have your physician or podiatrist diagnose it. If it’s plantar fasciitis, ice and patience are your friends.

Start with an icy water bottle or juice can. Roll it over the bottom of your injured foot. Keep a few icy bottles or cans in the freezer and do this exercise for 15-20 minutes several times a day.

You still will be able to exercise with plantar fasciitis, but you should substitute running with swimming or bicycling, which don’t stress your feet. Some athletes are using therapeutic tape to find relief and to avoid future recurrences.

It is possible that your plantar fasciitis will need further treatment, which may include a cortisone injection in your heel, custom orthotics or a night splint.

The plantar fascia may react to inflammation by forming a heel spur. It isn’t causing the pain, and it doesn’t need to be removed.

Plantar fasciitis may take six to 12 months to resolve, even with treatment. Do some prevention now, and your feet will be healthier.

Cheryl Boyd, M.D., practices at Kaiser Permanente’s Downtown Eugene Medical Office. More information on healthy living is available at kp.org

Source: The Register Guard | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

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