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Don't let foot pain spur you to despair.


The problem of a painful heel is often diagnosed as a "heel spur," but more often than not the pain is due to inflammation of the tissue known as plantar fascia and not to a spur of bone that may or may not be present on an x-ray. Hence, the correct diagnosis is "plantar fasciitis." ("Plantar" refers to the sole of the foot, a point to be noted with reference to another problem that may cause pain when walking--plantar wart, a term often corrupted by the laity to "planter's wart.") Fascia is a form of fibrous, fatty tissue that connects or surrounds muscle tissue and various organs throughout the body (thus called "connective tissue," more familiar to us as one form of "gristle" found in meat).

Why the fascia becomes inflamed is not always clear, although unusual trauma to the heel may precipitate the condition. Whatever the cause, the cure is usually a do-it-yourself project. The pain normally occurs only when putting pressure on the heel and tends to be worse when one first gets out of bed in the morning or gets up after sitting for an extended period. Rest is thus the best treatment, but not a very practical solution most of the time. Wearing comfortable shoes, with rubber heels and thick soles, is recommended, with the addition of a sole cushion (available in any drug store and most supermarkets) to soften pressure on the heel. Cutting a circular hole about the size of a quarter in the sole cushion just under the painful spot may give further relief, thus supporting the area just around it and relieving some pressure on the painful spot itself. If one has flat feet, arch supports may help.

The good news is that the inflammation itself, together with the pain it produces, can be treated with over-the-counter ibuprofen. The condition is usually self-limited. The bad news is that treatment may taken some time, occurring intermittently for a year or more. If the suggested procedures fail to relieve the pain, consult your doctor, who may find that inflammation of other tissues (tendon, nerve or joint) may be the cause and thus prescribe other treatment.
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Title Annotation:foot pain may be due to plantar fasciitis rather than bone spur
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:Going head over heels can be a good thing.
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