Plantar fasciitis is the term commonly used to refer to heel and arch pain traced to an inflammation on the bottom of the foot. More specifically, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the connective tissue, called plantar fascia, that stretches from the base of the toes, across the arch of the foot, to the point at which it inserts into the heel bone. Overpronation is the most common cause of plantar fasciitis. As the foot rolls inward excessively when walking, it flattens the foot, lengthens the arch, and puts added tension on the plantar fascia. Over time, this causes inflammation.
Also known as heel spur syndrome, the condition is often successfully treated with conservative measures, such as the use of anti-inflammatory medications, ice packs, stretching exercises, orthotic devices, and physical therapy. Note: Please consult your physician before taking any medications. In persistent cases, Extracorporeal Shock Wave Treatment (ESWT) may be used to treat the heel pain.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) is used to treat chronic heel pain (plantar fasciitis). "Extracorporeal" means "outside of the body." During this noninvasive procedure, sonic waves are directed at the area of pain using a device similar to that currently used in nonsurgical treatment of kidney stones.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy is prescribed for patients who have experienced plantar fasciitis for an extended period of time -- six months or more -- and have not benefited from other conservative treatments. The brief procedure lasts about 30 minutes and is performed under local anesthesia and/or "twilight" anesthesia. Strong sound waves are directed at and penetrate the heel area to stimulate a healing response by the body. ESWT is performed on an outpatient basis. Although there are no bandages, someone will need to drive the patient home.
People who are not candidates for ESWT include pregnant women and individuals with neurological foot disease, vascular foot disease, pacemakers, or people taking medications that interfere with blood clotting (such as Coumadin).
This therapy is a safe and effective alternative treatment for heel pain and only requires a short recovery time. Clinical studies show a 70 percent success rate for treatment of plantar fasciitis using Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy.
Adult-acquired flatfoot or posterior tibial tendon dysfunction usually leads to a gradual loss of the arch. The posterior tibial muscle is a deep muscle in the back of the calf and has a long tendon that extends from above the ankle and attaches into several sites around the arch of the foot. The muscle acts like a stirrup on the inside of the foot to help support the arch. The posterior tibial muscle stabilizes the arch and creates a rigid platform for walking and running. If the posterior tibial tendon becomes damaged or tears, the arch loses its stability and as a result, collapses, causing a flatfoot.
Surgery is often performed to give the patient a more functional and stable foot. Several procedures may be required to correct a flatfoot deformity, depending on the severity of the problem. These may include:
- Tenosynovectomy—a procedure to clean away (debridement) and remove any of the inflamed tissue around the tendon.
- Osteotomy—removal of a portion of the heel bone (calcaneus) to move the foot structure back into alignment.
- Tendon Transfer—in which replacement fibers from another tendon are inserted to help repair damage.
- Lateral Column Lengthening—A procedure that implants a small piece of bone, usually removed from the hip, outside of the heel bone to create the proper bone alignment and rebuild the arch.
- Arthrodesis—Fusing of one or more bones together to eliminate any joint movement, which stabilizes the foot and prevents any further deterioration or damage.