Answering seven common questions that Singaporeans ask about plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot injury that presents as a stabbing point under your feet near the heel area. Of all causes of chronic heel pain, plantar fasciitis is the most common and affects up to 80% of cases in Singapore.
Suspecting that you might be suffering from plantar fasciitis? Read on as we break down seven most commonly asked questions about chronic heel pain.
What is plantar fasciitis?
As one of the leading causes of chronic heel pain, plantar fasciitis is especially common among those aged 40 or above. Individuals more susceptible to this condition include those who engage in regular strenuous exercises or work in occupations where prolonged standing is required.
Plantar fasciitis describes the condition affecting your plantar fascia – a band of deep tissue that extends from the heel bone to your toes. When the plantar fascia is deformed, strained or torn, you will feel a characteristic “stabbing” pain around your heel region. This is a result of severe inflammation of your plantar fascia.
What causes plantar fasciitis? What are the risk factors?
There are several risk factors that may increase your likelihood of chronic heel injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. These risk factors include old age, obesity, occupation and foot mechanics.
- Age – Those aged above 40 have the highest risk of developing plantar fasciitis. Regular check ups, especially upon detection of persistent heel pain, are highly recommended.
- Obesity – individuals with BMI greater than 30 have 5 times the risk of plantar fasciitis than those with BMI less than 20. Increased pressure on the foot ligaments can aggravate injuries and cause chronic heel pain.
- Occupation – individuals engaged in rigorous sports or are required to spend the majority of their workday standing have 3 times the risk of plantar fasciitis. This is because exertion of the feet without allowing the ligaments to relax can exacerbate injuries.
- Foot mechanics – Some foot conditions such as flat feet, high arches and strained achilles tendons increase the comorbidity of plantar fasciitis.
What are the symptoms? Can it get worse?
Individuals suffering from plantar fasciitis often complain of sharp ‘stabbing’ pain in the heel region. The pain intensifies when flexing the feet or after prolonged activity (e.g. standing). You may also experience tenderness in the heel or a burning sensation in some cases.
One reason why your plantar fascia is prone to injuries is because the tissue generally has poor blood supply. Recovery is slow as routine activities could easily aggravate existing injuries.
What are my treatment options for plantar fasciitis?
As with most physical injuries, the body can facilitate natural recovery over time. However, plantar fasciitis can persist and worsen over time, especially when the patient continues to aggravate their injuries through strenuous exercise despite the pain.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis is essential for speedy recovery. Shockwave therapy, conventional physiotherapy exercises and even surgery to release the fascia can help relieve the pain.
Local injections of corticosteroids could provide immediate pain relief, but does not facilitate the recovery of the plantar fascia. The choice of treatment depends on your lifestyle and preference for the duration of recovery.
What is shockwave therapy (ESWT)? Does ESWT treat plantar fasciitis?
Extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) is effective for recalcitrant patients who experience persistent chronic heel pain that is resistant to other treatment options. By using HSA-certified, non-invasive acoustic shockwaves to encourage blood flow and muscle regeneration, ESWT accelerates the body’s natural healing process.
These powerful shock waves generated by the ESWT machine stimulates nerve fibres in the heel region, which immediately produces an analgesic effect and relieves pain. By stimulating blood circulation and dilating blood vessels, ESWT also encourages blood flowing to the injured regions.
Is shockwave therapy (ESWT) safe and effective?
Peer-reviewed papers have confirmed that ESWT is safe and effective for the treatment of plantar fasciitis. Short-term pain relief and muscle recovery is sustained over time with regular ESWT sessions.
Typically, patients experience prominent pain relief and muscle relaxation after one or two sessions of ESWT. Regular follow-ups are required to ensure that deep musculoskeletal recovery is achieved.
As a credible, evidence-based treatment, ESWT has been designated by the Health Sciences Authority Singapore as a Class B medical device. This means that ESWT is as risk-free as a pregnancy test kit or an ultrasound scan.
How about conventional physiotherapy exercises?
Conventional physiotherapy exercises, when applied carefully, properly and regularly, can be useful for recovery. However, improper physiotherapy exercises could aggravate the injury, especially when done without professional guidance.
It is important to arrange for physiotherapy appointments with specialists to ensure that the exercises you do are not counter-productive.
Are you determined to overcome your plantar fasciitis condition? Bar & Hertz can help. Get in touch with one of our ESWT partners through the booking page to arrange your first consultation.
Let’s recover faster, better, together.