Understanding Plantar Fasciitis And Other Foot Injuries: Part 1
Foot injuries can be frustrating because they affect you constantly in the day. It hurts to run, jump, squat, getting up in the morning and can stop you from doing activities you love.
A common condition people are diagnosed with is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick sheet of connective tissue that lies on the bottom of your feet. It runs from the inner part of your heel and spreads under your foot, attaching to the base of your toes. The function is to act as a shock absorber for the arch of your foot when moving.
Imagine the plantar fascia as a rubber band. When you are not standing up the rubber band is relaxed. But as the foot hits the ground when walking or running, it is pulled taut. This is useful for two reasons.
- Maintains your foot arch.
- Allows the foot to be more rigid allowing the body to push off the ground propelling itself forward more efficiently.
Imagine you are trying to run through quicksand. It is hard to push off and gather speed because you have not got a firm surface to push off. But the plantar fascia creates an effect in the foot turning this quicksand to a firm surface so you can generate force efficiently and with more power.
For a long time, Plantar Fasciitis was thought to be an inflammation of the plantar fascia and more of a repetitive stress injury. But the true cause of this condition comes down to a problem with blood flow.
When your big toe is pulled inward for example in a narrow shoe or if you have a tight foot, a muscle on the inside bottom of the foot is under tension, this is your Abductor Hallucis. You can test this and see it for yourself. If you pull your big toe inwards and look next to the inside of your heel, you can see the stretching occurring.
This tightening of the muscle leads to pinching of a nearby artery that runs underneath. This restricts blood flow to part of the bottom of your foot.
This leads us to an important point. Poor blood flow limits the body’s ability to recover from stress.
Most people who are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis have pain on the bottom of their foot (usually near the inside side of the heel) that is especially extremely painful when taking their first few steps in the morning after waking up.
A common description is a knife-like sensation stabbing the bottom of the foot. While these symptoms may get better through the day but are then made worse with loading. For example when you go for a run or stand up for long periods of time.
Mortons Neuroma: A very common condition that causes pain in the foot is Morton’s neuroma. It is a painful enlargement of a small nerve in your foot that runs between your third and fourth toes. But why is the nerve painful in the first place? The answer is often inappropriate footwear and a dysfunctional foot.
The three problem features of shoes contribute to nerve irritation.
- Elevated heel: This causes the toes to be in an extended position. This will increase the amount of load on the nerve
- Toe spring: Lifting the toes also increases the load on the exposed nerve to an even greater degree.
- Narrow toebox: If the toes are pushd together, the nerve can be pinched between the third and fourth toes.
This extra loading on the nerve and pinching causes symptoms of burning or electrical shock-like pain into the third and fourth toes. It also often gives an uncomfortable sensation in the foot and is often described as a feeling of a pebble in peoples shoes.
Next week we will cover the ways to help manage and fix these issues.
In the meantime, if you suffer from foot pain or have any questions then contact the clinic today on 0578678904, direct message us on Facebook or book now.
Yours in Health
The Lawlor Clinic: Spine & Sport, Portlaoise, Laois