Heel pain can be a very complex problem, with a wide variety of possible causes and diagnoses. However, the most common heel pain diagnosis we see, at least among adults, is a condition called plantar fasciitis.

If you are suffering from pain located on the bottom of the heel, particularly after getting out of bed or standing up after a lengthy rest, plantar fasciitis is the most likely culprit.

Fortunately, almost all cases of plantar fasciitis can be treated successfully without surgery. The sooner you make an appointment, the better your chances that the simplest, least-invasive treatment methods will be successful.

What Is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligament positioned along the underside of your foot extending from the heel bone to the base of the toes.

Under normal circumstances, the plantar fascia acts like a kind of bowstring or strut for your foot. It assists in stabilizing and maintaining the arch of the foot and stretches slightly when you bear weight. As you progress through a step, your toes flex and tighten the plantar fascia, allowing it to lock major sets of joints to create an energy-efficient foot to propel you forward.

Unfortunately, putting too much stress on the plantar fascia over time can lead to inflammation and the development of tiny tears within the fascia. This is most commonly felt on the bottom of the foot, where the fascia connects to the heel bone.

    Woman stretching foot
    man holding toe in pain with one shoe off on path

    Why Is the Pain Worse in the Morning?

    As mentioned above, the classic symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel pain that is worse when getting out of bed, or when standing after sitting for an extended period of time.

    This is because the fascia tends to naturally tighten and contract while you sleep, or while you are inactive. When you resume standing, the fascia is forced to suddenly elongate, re-aggravating the inflammation in the tissue. In severe cases of plantar fasciitis, this pain may be described as a stabbing or even burning sensation.

    Massaging your feet, stretching, or just doing heel raises while sitting on the edge of your bed for a few minutes before standing will warm up and loosen the fascia and significantly reduce that initial pain in the morning. 

    What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

    Usually here is no single cause of plantar fasciitis. Often, there are several contributing factors. At your appointment, we will help you determine the most likely culprits creating this problem. This will help us personalize an effective treatment plan and provide you with the most relevant information and guidance on how you can prevent future episodes of plantar fasciitis.

    Some of the most common contributing factors include:

    • Poor footwear
    • Active hobbies or occupations
    • Significant changes or increases in your physical activities
    • Having especially tight calf muscles or Achilles tendons
    • Having flat feet (or other structural abnormalities in your feet)
    • Obesity

    When Should I See a Doctor About My Plantar Fasciitis?

    If any form of heel pain is interfering with daily activities, we recommend you make an appointment with us. It is better to take care of the problem sooner rather than later, before it becomes severe, chronic, and difficult to treat.

    Many mild cases of plantar fasciitis can be treated exclusively with simple, conservative therapies you can perform at home. The initial treatment typically includes strategies such as heat therapy, stretching exercises, footwear modifications, and arch supports.

    If your heel pain persists after trying these treatments for a least one month, more aggressive physical therapy, medications, or custom orthotics will be recommended. In extreme cases, a surgical procedure may be necessary to resolve the symptoms; however, fewer than 10 percent of cases will make it to this point. Once again, seeking our care for plantar fasciitis sooner rather than later can significantly reduce your risk of needing more aggressive treatments.

    To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bobrowski at InStride Crystal Coast Podiatry in New Bern, call us today at (252) 638-4700. You may also request an appointment online, if you prefer.