Plantar Fasciitis and tendonitis are two very different conditions that can be difficult to tell apart at first. Both involve acute foot pain, and both can have a big impact on your quality of life. Knowing the difference between the two can make a significant difference on your treatment, so the sooner you determine which condition you’re dealing with, the sooner you can get effective relief for your symptoms.
One of the biggest difference between Plantar Fasciitis vs. tendonitis is the location of the pain: The pain from Plantar Fasciitis is concentrated on the heel and underside of the foot, while the pain from tendonitis can manifest in many areas of the foot, depending on the type of tendonitis–except the underside of the foot. However, in the early stages of both conditions, this can be difficult to differentiate. Luckily, these two conditions differ in other ways too.
Keep reading to learn more about the differences between Plantar Fasciitis and tendonitis.
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Is It Plantar Fasciitis?
When the thick tissue that connects your heel to the ball of your foot (the area responsible for your foot’s arch) becomes chronically inflamed to the point of pain, you have a condition known as Plantar Fasciitis.
Causes of Plantar Fasciitis
The primary cause of Plantar Fasciitis is unsupported or strained arches. It can be triggered or made worse by any of the following factors:
- Sudden weight gain (including weight gain from pregnancy) or chronic weight issues that put additional strain on the arches of your feet
- Long distance running, or running without proper foot support on hard or uneven surfaces
- Arches that are either high or flat
- Standing for long periods of time throughout the day
- Prolonged use of everyday footwear that doesn’t have proper arch support
Symptoms and Characteristics of Plantar Fasciitis
One of the most common telltale signs of Plantar Fasciitis is foot pain that is worst first thing in the morning (when the fascia is tight after a night of sleep) and improves somewhat throughout the day as the fascia stretches out. The following are other telltale signs of Plantar Fasciitis:
- Stiffness in the heel and aching arches
- Swelling and redness along the arch and heel
- Pain that is worse in the morning
- Symptoms improve somewhat with rest, stretching the fascia, and icing
- Sharp pain in the fascia and heel, which typically causes limping (especially in the morning)
To diagnose Plantar Fasciitis, your doctor will carefully examine your heel and arch, and will probably take x-rays. If the area between your heel and the ball of your foot appears inflamed and thicker than normal, and if the x-rays reveal bone spurs (calcium deposits that develop in response to inflammation of the heel and fascia), a diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis will likely be made.
Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis is most effective when approached holistically to reduce inflammation and support your heels and arches:
- Regular, gentle stretching
- Regular icing of the heel and fascia
- Shoes that support the heel and fascia, and daily use of orthotics and/or Heel Seats
- Dietary changes (avoiding inflammatory foods and adding certain supplements)
- Anti-inflammatory medication to manage foot pain, including ibuprofen
Is It Tendonitis?
Unlike Plantar Fasciitis, the pain from tendonitis can be focused in several areas of the foot, depending on the type of tendonitis (the front, side, top, or back of your foot)–but not the fascia. Achilles Tendonitis, one of the most common types of tendonitis, can either come on suddenly due to an injury or develop more chronically, from improper footwear or overuse.
Causes of Tendonitis
Tendonitis can have similar causes to Plantar Fasciitis. Running without supportive footwear on hard surfaces is often a primary culprit, but tendonitis can also be brought on suddenly by an injury.
Symptoms and Characteristics of Tendonitis
If you have tendonitis, you’ll likely find that foot pain is worst at the beginning of the day, and that it ramps up in response to increasing physical activity. Also look for these symptoms:
- Pain gets worsens with increasing activity level
- Redness and swelling
- A soft, painful lump may develop at the tendon, over time
- Stiffness in foot and ankle
Your doctor will do a physical exam of your foot, and may also do an MRI to determine whether any tearing or other damage has taken place to the tendons in your foot.
Treatment for tendonitis, like Plantar Fasciitis, should focus on dealing with symptoms and addressing the cause that brought about the condition in the first place. Strengthening the muscles in the calf and foot to support the tendons, icing and rest to reduce inflammation, and anti-inflammatory pain relievers are likely to be recommended. Orthotics and supportive footwear will also improve the healing process and prevent a return of symptoms.
Whether It’s tendonitis or Plantar Fasciitis, seeking and following through with treatment as soon as possible will make all the difference in getting relief and preventing further damage. Left untreated, both conditions can have a significant impact on your quality of life.
At Heel That Pain, we’re here to help you find answers to the questions you have and get you back on your feet–without pain. If you’re currently experiencing heel or arch pain, you may find the following resources helpful as well: