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Plantar fasciitis
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Plantar fasciitis

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Most commonly, heel pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the fibrous tissue (plantar fascia) along the bottom of your foot that connects your heel bone (calcaneus) to your toes.

The plantar fascia acts like a shock-absorbing bowstring, supporting the arch in your foot. However, if tension on that bowstring becomes too great, minute tears can occur along with inflammation. The result is a stabbing or burning pain that's usually worse in the morning because the fascia tightens (contracts) overnight. Once your foot limbers up, the pain generally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position. In severe instances, your foot may hurt with the slightest pressure, making walking difficult. Sometimes, plantar fasciitis is also associated with a growth (bone spur) that develops from tension on your heel bone.

When to seek medical advice

Inspect your feet on a regular basis so that you're aware of new symptoms, such as swelling or bruising.

If you experience pain and see little progress after a month of home treatment, seek help from your family doctor, a foot doctor (podiatrist) or a doctor who specializes in the treatment of muscle and bone problems. Seek help sooner if your pain worsens, despite home treatment. If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation, see your doctor for an early evaluation of any changes in your feet.

Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask if the pain is constant or occurs only when you put weight on your heel. An X-ray of your heel bone may rule out a stress fracture. However, a stress fracture often isn't apparent on an X-ray for up to four to six weeks after an injury. If your doctor suspects an acute stress fracture, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or bone scan may be necessary.

Sometimes, an X-ray shows a spur of the bone projecting forward from the heel bone. In the past, bone spurs were often blamed for heel pain and removed surgically, but doctors have found that they're typically not the cause of pain. Surgery to remove spurs is rare.


Ignoring plantar fasciitis may result in a chronic condition that hinders your regular activities. You may also develop foot, knee, hip or back problems because of the way plantar fasciitis changes your walking motion.

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