Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain in adults. It causes a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near your heel, most notably with the first step out of bed in the morning. Ouch! As you stand up and walk around, the pain may subside, but it will often return after long periods of standing, or when you stand up after sitting for a while.
‘Plantar’ refers to the sole, or bottom of your foot. ‘Fasciitis’ is inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects the heel to your toes. The plantar fascia also connects to the tissues that run down your leg and Achilles’ tendon. Sometimes problems such as trigger points in the muscles in your leg (called the soleus and gastrocnemius) can cause or contribute to the problem of plantar fasciitis. If that is the case, treatment may be needed in the leg – but more on that later.
Plantar fasciitis is more common in runners but is also seen in the very active dancers, the overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. Your foot mechanics can also increase chances of developing plantar fasciitis. A flat foot, a high arch, or an abnormal pattern of walking can put added stress of the plantar tissues.
It most commonly affects patients between ages 40 and 60, and certain occupations that require long periods of standing such as factory workers, teachers, and store clerks can be at increased risk. Standing on a hard surface increases the risk, so someone forced to stand for a long time should use a cushioned pad or carpet.
Diagnosis of plantar fasciitis usually does not require diagnostic imaging, but occasionally an x-ray may be taken to determine whether a heel spur is present. Heel spurs are bony projections from the bottom of the heel along the course of the plantar fascia. Spurs usually require invasive procedures, such as surgery to correct. Whereas since plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition, surgery is not recommended.
In the past, treatment for plantar fasciitis consisted of the following: icing, foot orthotics, heel pads and cushions, anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections. But there is a new solution that is giving patients across the country relief from plantar fasciitis – regenerative, non-invasive pain management with a class 4 therapy laser.
Class 4 therapeutic lasers deliver red and infrared photons of laser light into the tissues. The red photons are absorbed by more superficial tissues, while the infrared photons penetrate deeper into the body. The treatment is non-invasive and painless, to the contrary you would only feel a mild warming sensation during the treatment.
The photons of light are absorbed by different components (water, oxygenated hemoglobin, various enzymes) in your body, resulting in enhanced blood flow, improved tissue oxygenation and resolution of inflammation. For someone suffering from plantar fasciitis, the pain relief can sometimes be noticed after just the first treatment.
Treatment times are about five minutes, or maybe a little longer if treatment is also required in the leg. Remember how we said that sometimes trigger points in your leg muscles can cause or contribute to plantar fasciitis? Those trigger points cause a chronic shortening of the muscles, essentially pulling on the plantar fascia 24 hours a day, making your plantar fasciitis pain even worse.
Treatments are usually delivered three times a week for four to six weeks – but your clinician will determine the schedule and number of treatments that is best for you. A very high percentage of patients will get relief from the pain, discomfort and disability caused by plantar fasciitis within six weeks once they receive the class 4 therapy laser treatments