Author: Nathan Wei
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It is due to inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick piece of connective tissue that runs from the bottom of the heel to the base of the toes.About the Author:
This is how the condition develops...
Repetitive trauma leads to micro tears in the fascia. Common causes include a sudden increase in physical activity, wearing shoes without arch support, an acute injury, and prolonged standing. Excessive weight can be a contributing factor.
The classic symptom is pain in the heel with the first steps in the morning and after a period of rest. The pain improves with activity but comes back after prolonged weight-bearing, particularly at the end of the day. The pain is usually located in the bottom of the heel but sometimes radiates to the arch.
Four conditions that mimic plantar fasciitis are tarsal tunnel syndrome (entrapment of the tibial nerve), entrapment of the first branch of the lateral plantar nerve, stress fracture of the calcaneus (heel bone), and referred pain from a pinched nerve in the low back. Electrical studies such as electromyograms and nerve conduction testing can assist in diagnosis.
The diagnosis is suspected on history and physical exam and can be confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or diagnostic ultrasound.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis is conservative at the beginning, consisting of non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), plantar fascia night splints, well-cushioned shoes, heel pads or heel cups, orthotics, and physical therapy. Stretching of the plantar fascia and heel cord is often beneficial.
Other treatments that have had some success include heel lifts and short leg casts.
While cortisone injections are often given for plantar fasciitis, they should be avoided if possible. Relief is temporary and the plantar fat pad will atrophy. In addition, rupture of the plantar fascia can also occur.
Extracorporeal shock wave therapy generates high pressure sound that appears to relieve soft tissue pain. How this device works is still not completely understood. Theories include the formation of new blood vessels or perhaps damage to sensory pain fibers. It takes about six months before maximum improvement is noted.
While surgery is an option, it's not a good one. The types of surgery performed include endoscopic fasciotomy, heel spur removal, and plantar fascia release. Debates among surgeons regarding the benefit of endoscopic approaches versus open approaches are common. Both groups claim a better than 90 per cent success rate. Time to recovery varies from three to 10 months in most series.
A much more effective therapy appears to be the use of percutaneous needle tenotomy. This is a procedure where a needle is inserted using ultrasound guidance and the fascia is irritated in order to stimulate inflammation. Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), which is a concentrate of the patient's blood that contains a large number of platelets, is then injected into the site. Platelets contain multiple healing and growth factors. When they are introduced into an area of injury a cascade of events occurs including healing as well as tissue regeneration.
Physical therapy can be started gently about a week to ten days following the procedure.
In our hands, the success rate, including patients who have failed all other forms of treatment has been excellent.
Nathan Wei, MD FACP FACR is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist. For more info: Arthritis">http://www.arthritis-treatment-and-relief.com/arthritis-treatment.html">Arthritis Treatment and Tendonitis Treatment Tips
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