Q. I’ve been suffering from foot pain, and was told I may have plantar fasciitis. What causes this condition, and can I treat it with natural medicine?
A. Plantar fasciitis, the most common cause of heel pain, is the result of repeated trauma of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia originates at the heel and forms the medial longitudinal arch of the foot, which is important in running and walking. The plantar fascia also serves as a major shock absorber when your foot hits the ground.
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by rapid weight gain, overexertion and inadequate footwear. It is most often seen in physically active people such as joggers, but is also prevalent in adults, especially women ages 40 to 60. Diabetics and people who have flat feet are also more prone to the condition.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain on the sole of the foot at or near the heel. Most people with the condition say the pain is worse in the morning when they get out of bed and begin walking. After walking for a few minutes, the pain usually diminishes, but it may resume if they do weight-bearing exercises.
A diagnosis of plantar fasciitis is made by your physician after reviewing your symptoms and ruling out other conditions such as bursitis, a stress fracture, a tumor, Paget’s disease or nerve entrapment. Typically, a physical exam will reveal tenderness at the bottom of the foot near the heel, pain that is worse when standing on the toes, and a tight Achilles tendon.
Natural methods for treating plantar fasciitis are numerous. First and foremost, avoid activities that aggravate the condition. Also important are good shoes with adequate support and cushioned heels. Arch supports and orthotics are helpful; you can purchase either prefabricated supports or custom-made orthotics. Featherspring arch supports have helped some of my patients overcome plantar fasciitis. (See www.featherspring.com for more information.)
Stretching the Achilles tendon and the bottom of the foot is central to treating plantar fasciitis. While standing on the stairs, stretch your heel downward toward the lower step and hold for a few minutes, but don’t induce pain.
Massaging the bottom of the foot can also help.
Finally, a good natural anti-inflammatory can expedite healing; I recommend 750 milligrams of bromelain (derived from pineapple) three times a day on an empty stomach.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com