Inflammation and plantar fasciitis go hand in hand, that much is clear. But why? And what can be done about it?
We’ve answered your top questions about plantar fasciitis and inflammation to help you arm yourself with knowledge about one of the most common side effects of this painful condition. Knowledge is power, and the more you know about the source of your pain, the better you can address–and heal–that pain.
1. Why Does Plantar Fasciitis Cause Inflammation?
To put it simply, plantar fasciitis develops in response to strain and stress on the fascia of your foot–otherwise known as the arch, or the area between your heel and the ball of your foot. When strain or damage from injury or overuse happens, tiny tears appear in the fascia that cause inflammation. As the body attempts to compensate for this damage, small calcium deposits often form that dig into the fatty pad of the heel when you walk–causing further inflammation and pain.
2. How Is Inflammation Identified?
Inflammation typically feels like pain that flares up in the form of swollen tissue, reddened skin, and sometimes heat to the touch. It may feel more difficult to move the inflamed area of the foot. Interestingly enough, inflammation is actually part of your body’s healing response–sending additional blood, hormones, and white blood cells to the injured area of your body for protection and support. It can help to think of inflammation as a signal from your body that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.
3. Can Inflammation Be Present Without Visible Symptoms?
In some cases of chronic, continuous stress and strain to the plantar fascia, it may be possible to ignore or brush off some milder symptoms of inflammation. Pain may not be severe, and redness and swelling may not be apparent to the naked eye at first. Don’t ignore early signs of inflammation like slight swelling and mild pain, before you take action to address the underlying problem.
4. What is the difference between acute and chronic inflammation?
The inflammation you may experience from plantar fasciitis can either be acute or chronic. In other words, the pain you experience long-term as a result of plantar fasciitis is considered chronic, while pain that flares up in the morning when you step out of bed, or when you stay on your feet all day, is acute. Both acute and chronic pain are typically involved with plantar fasciitis, but their treatment should vary.
5. How Can I Treat Acute Inflammation?
Acute inflammation that flares up after a long day on your feet or an injury can be treated with rest, icing, and anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen. Make sure to give the injury or the affected area that’s inflamed enough time to heal by staying off your feet as much as possible, and use an ice pack or ice slippers consistently over several days.
6. How Can I Treat Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation should be treated at the source of the problem in addition to using ice, rest, and anti-inflammatory medication for acute symptoms that flare up. Many cases of chronic pain and inflammation of the foot are the result of plantar fasciitis. At the root of the problem is an arch that is injured or strained. By better supporting the arch and positioning the foot so that heel spurs (which can cause inflammation through the simple act of walking as they protrude into the fatty pad of the heel) don’t jut into surrounding tissue, the fascia can begin to heal. Orthotics made especially for heel spurs and plantar fasciitis–not simply cushioning–are the fastest way to heal and support a damaged arch. Incorporating simple stretches to strengthen the arch is also a critical part of healing, since a weak arch is much more likely to sustain damage.
When it comes to inflammation, treat the symptoms as they arise, but don’t neglect to treat the underlying problem (typically plantar fasciitis) that is causing the pain and discomfort. Simply treating symptoms is a surefire recipe for a problem that gets worse, and takes longer to treat effectively, as more time goes by. Thankfully, most inflammation resulting from plantar fasciitis can be dealt with simply and effectively at home, using icing, rest, orthotics, and simple stretches.