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Understanding heel spurs and plantar fasciitis

Being one of the most common causes of heel pain in adults, there is an overload of information on plantar fasciitis both online and offline. However, finding what will actually help you in treating the condition can be a bit of a challenge.
Statistics have shown around 2 million Americans are affected by plantar fasciitis each year, and 10% of the population is affected over the course of their lifetime. With the prevalence of plantar fasciitis so high, it’s important to learn more about what it really is.
A more commonly used misnomer for the condition is the ‘heel spur syndrome’. I call it a misnomer because although plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are relevant; they’re not the same thing. I’ll tell you why in a bit but first let’s get down to the basics.
Plantar Fasciitis: The Anatomy
Anatomically speaking, there’s a multi-layered connective tissue called the ‘plantar fascia’ that extends from the heel of your foot towards your toes. What this fascia does is give support to the arches of your foot and act as a shock absorber. As the name suggests, it is this fascia that is affected in plantar fasciitis.
However, unlike what the name suggests, plantar fasciitis isn’t exactly an inflammation of the plantar fascia. It was once believed to be but recent studies have found evidence against this theory. Instead, there is evidence of collagen degeneration and pathological damage of the plantar fascia in the plantar fasciitis. ‘Fasciosis’, therefore, describes the injury more accurately because the suffix ‘-osis’ depicts degeneration.
Signs and Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis
People suffering from the condition show some pretty classical plantar fasciitis symptoms:  stabbing pain in the heels especially in the morning which is because during sleep, muscles of the legs and foot naturally tighten; therefore, the first few steps after waking up can hurt. Other symptoms of plantar fasciitis include tenderness at the bottom of the foot, and worsening of the pain after an exercise routine or when climbing the stairs.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
Several theories have been proposed and studies carried out to investigate the root cause of the condition. Some of these theories are pretty bogus; others hold a decent amount of weight. One of the more common misconceptions includes blaming heel spurs as a root cause of the condition.
Heel spurs are tiny bone projections that form in the heel of the foot in a small percentage of people. There is no denying that people suffering heel spurs have shown a higher incidence of plantar fasciitis but that’s only because heel spurs can be a risk factor (more later) of the injury and not a root cause. The pain of plantar fasciitis may in fact not be associated at all with heel spurs so getting them surgically removed won’t necessarily cure your plantar fasciitis.
The more plausible root cause of plantar fasciitis is, in fact, weakened foot muscles.
What we do know for sure, though, is that certain risk factors make you more vulnerable to contracting the condition. This includes pronation problems, flat feet, high arches and even obesity.
Plantar fasciitis is a common yet stubborn condition. The treatment options available depend upon the severity of the condition. Normally, physical therapy and foot exercises alleviate the symptoms and even cure plantar fasciitis but for more severe patients, surgery might be the last option.
Local to Wyckoff and looking for a personalized and professional physical therapist?  Contact Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation today!

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
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