First, the good news: 90% of plantar fasciitis cases can be successfully resolved with simple, conservative treatments.
What’s the bad news? The longer plantar fasciitis goes unaddressed, the longer the healing process takes and the more potential complications that may arise. Not allowing your arch enough rest time after an injury, continuing to participate in high-impact activities without proper footwear or support, and failing to follow through with at-home treatments are the most common ways plantar fasciitis persists and gets worse.
What are the risks for leaving plantar fasciitis untreated? And what other complications can arise as plantar fasciitis gets worse?
Over time, if plantar fasciitis is left untreated, the inflammation and stress to the plantar fascia can result in small tears. You may not be aware of the moment that these small tears appear, however you will notice your pain level gradually worsen. If these tears are left unaddressed, they may grow in size and number, and make the plantar fascia more vulnerable to rupture and debilitation.
Plantar rupture can occur if plantar fasciitis is not addressed, and an individual continues to participate in activities that place a great deal of impact on the plantar fascia. These activities could include jogging, sports, or even standing for long periods of time in ill-fitting footwear.
Symptoms of plantar fascia rupture usually include a loud popping sound, followed by intense pain, bruising, and swelling in the foot. Putting weight on the affected foot will be very painful. If you suspect plantar rupture, you should seek medical help immediately. You will likely be required to wear a boot or crutches for a period of time after a ruptured plantar fascia.
Plantar fibromatosis is a condition in which benign, slow-growing nodules form along the plantar fascia. The nodules often grow slowly and undetected, followed by sudden, rapid growth. As time passes and the nodules grow, walking may become uncomfortable or painful.
While many cases of plantar fibromatosis are believed to be triggered by genetics, there is is a correlation between individuals with plantar fasciitis and individuals with plantar fibromatosis. Some researchers believe that plantar fibromatosis can be triggered by a tear in the fascia that is left untreated.
Heel spurs are one of the most common consequences of leaving plantar fasciitis untreated. In an attempt to protect the arch of your foot and mitigate damage, your body sends an army of cells to the site of the problem, which begins depositing calcium. Over time, these deposits can build up into sharp protrusions that dig into the fatty pad of the heel and cause a great deal of pain with each step.
Heel spurs can build up over several months’ time without causing pain. In other words, allowing plantar fasciitis to go untreated may mean that a secondary problem brews unnoticed–until the sharp pain reappears.
Recognizing the symptoms of plantar fasciitis and treating this condition early is the best way to avoid secondary problems and complications. Think of the pain from developing plantar fasciitis as a warning, encouraging you to address the problem at hand before more damage occurs. Stretching, icing, and using special orthotic inserts are all effective ways to curb the damage from plantar fasciitis and begin healing.