By Rehan Iqbal
Foot and ankle pain of any kind can seriously interfere with your activities of daily living (ADL) and your fitness goals. What can you do to prevent or treat foot and ankle pain? One of the first steps toward recovery is correct identification. In this article we explain the difference between two common foot and ankle problems, plantar fasciitis and peroneal tendonitis.
If you feel sharp pains in your heels and arches, especial when you first get up in the morning, you may have plantar fasciitis (PF). With this malady, pain is most severe upon arising and may ease as the day progresses. If you sit for long periods during the day, you may notice the pain when you stand up.
What causes this problem? The plantar fascia are thick bands of connective tissue that run the length of your foot, from the heel bone to the toe bones. If this band is stretched excessively, it may tear. This causes a great deal of pain in the heel, arch and sole of the foot.
Interestingly, women are more likely to develop PF, and this may have something to do with choices in footwear.
If you have sharp pain and/or a consistent ache along the outer side of your foot and into your ankle, your problem may be peroneal tendonitis (PT). This foot problem is caused by peroneal muscle damage. The peroneal muscles connect at various points in your foot and wrap over the outside of the foot and the ankle bone.
Not only is the location of pain different with PT than with PF, the experience of pain is also different. With PT, you are likely to experience persistent, progressive pain even at rest.
If you are a very fast runner, you are more likely to experience PT. If you have previously damaged the tendons in your feet and ankles (e.g. sprained ankle) you are more likely to develop PT.
How are PT and PF Alike?
Both of these common foot problems are caused by overuse and stress on the structure of the foot. If you have very high arches or flat feet, you are more likely to experience these difficulties. If you are overweight, the added stress on the feet can cause PT, PF or both. If you are a serious runner, you have a very likely chance of overstressing your feet and experiencing one or both of these conditions.
What Can You Do?
Proper identification of the problem is essential, so you should make an appointment with your doctor right away to get a proper diagnosis. While you are waiting for your appointment, practice the tried and true pain and inflammation relief method: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE). This practical, common sense treatment can help with all manner of tendon, ligament and muscle injuries.
What Will the Doctor Do?
Your doctor will examine and assess your feet and determine exactly what the problem is. He or she will make recommendations regarding treatment.
If your problem is plantar fasciitis, your prescribed treatment may include:
If these treatments are not effective in a reasonable period of time, your doctor may recommend:
If your problem is peroneal tendonitis, your prescribed treatment may include:
Practicing these treatments consistently should have you back on your feet, performing ADL and pursuing your fitness goals with in a few weeks.
If your PT is caused by an injury, such as a serious ankle sprain, your doctor may recommend surgery. It may take six weeks or more to recover fully from surgery and return to strenuous exercise, such as running.