September is Pain Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to talk about a debilitating type of foot pain that affects many of our Fairfax County patients: plantar fasciitis, or heel pain.

Plantar fasciitis, or heel pain, hurts the most when you step out of bed in the morning. The pain eases up as you walk around but comes back when you stop moving again. It seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Why would you have more heel pain when you’re not using your feet?

The answer lies within the thick ligament in the bottom of your foot. That ligament, called the plantar fascia, can become inflamed – or even torn – from repeated stress, such as running, working on your feet all day, carrying too much weight, and wearing unsupportive shoes. However, the pain lessens as long as the ligament is in use and has a chance to stretch out – like when you’re moving about all day.

But when you’re at rest, especially overnight as you sleep, the ligament tightens up again. As soon as you take a step, you’re suddenly flexing that tightened tissue – and that can be very painful.

Exercises will help

Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm, our board-certified podiatrist at Clifton Foot & Ankle Center, will show you specific exercises you can do at home to improve the flexibility of the plantar fascia and strengthen the muscles surrounding it. You may be surprised to learn a tight calf muscle can make plantar fasciitis worse, and that’s why several of these exercises help relax the muscles in your calf.

More ways to ease plantar fasciitis pain

Unfortunately, exercises alone may not do the trick. Plantar fasciitis is best eliminated with a combination of treatments that our expert podiatrist can provide:

  • finding and fixing structural issues that are contributing to the inflammation (for example, heel spurs, flat feet, or high arches)
  • prescribing anti-inflammatory medications
  • fitting you for custom orthotics that reduce pain and pressure
  • giving you a foot brace that keeps the plantar fascia from tightening up while you sleep.

If you’re frustrated with chronic heel pain, make an appointment with Dr. Wilhelm at our podiatry office in Centreville, Virginia, for these specialized treatments. Call (703) 996-3000 or contact us online.

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