You may not have heard of plantar fasciitis before, but you've probably heard of heel spurs. They are the same thing; plantar fasciitis is just the name in medical jargon.

In medical terminology, the “–itis” suffix usually means “inflammation of.” Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thin, flat band of connective tissue that stretches from the bottom of the heel bone to the ball of the foot.

Inflammation can occur anywhere along the span of the plantar fascia. A majority of people with heel spurs have inflammation right where the fascia attaches to the heel bone. Some people have it in the arch of the foot. Least frequently, the inflammation is in the ball of the foot.

Inflammation occurs when too much strain causes small little tears in the plantar fascia. This is an injury that is usually caused by repetitive stress, such as walking or running. Other factors include wearing worn-out shoes, being overweight, and starting a new exercise program.

Over time, these small tears in the fascia can lengthen, deepen, and merge to become one big tear.

A spur may form where the plantar fascia attaches to the bone, if the inflammation has been present for a long time. The size of the spur really doesn’t matter. That is because the spur typically doesn’t cause any pain. It is the inflammation around the spur that causes pain.

How do you know if you have a heel spur? You can't know for sure unless you visit an experienced podiatrist, but people with plantar fasciitis typically have sharp pain on the bottom of the heel when they take the first steps out of bed in the morning. It may improve a little as you walk on it. You may also have pain toward the end of the day after you have been on them for a long time. The pain may also be aching and throbbing.

If these symptoms sound familiar, you may have plantar fasciitis. When you visit Fixing Feet Institute in Surprise, Arizona, your doctor will begin with asking specific questions and examining your feet. He or she will need to take simple x-rays of your feet to see if there are any alignment problems causing strain on your plantar fascia. Your podiatrist will also perform a diagnostic ultrasound examination to see if the plantar fascia is inflamed, thickened, or torn.

To schedule an appointment at Fixing Feet Institute, call 623-584-5556, or e-mail [email protected].

Dr. Peyman A. Elison
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Founder and Managing Partner of Fixing Feet Institute