The USA Today, on the front page of the sports section on August 21, featured an article about feet. It was not about athletes kicking a field goal, scoring a goal, or running around the bases. This story was about footache. Headache, toothache, backache, and stomachache are familiar to many. Unfortunately footache now resonates with many.
In this article, it talks about athletes like Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels, Pau Gasol of the basketball Lakers, Antonio Gates of the football Chargers, and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, who have all suffered from a condition called plantar fasciitis. This is pain coming from the thick connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot from the heel toward the bones in the mid-foot. The tissue becomes inflamed because of overuse or trauma and causes agonizing pain.
This fascia is also at other locations on the foot as well. I have experienced fascial pain first hand and it is no fun, especially in the morning. When your feet hurt, everything is affected. Pain can cause increased blood pressure, inflammatory mediators to increase in the body, poor sleep, and often a lousy mood follows.
What is the treatment? For many extended rest is the best treatment, but this s is not a good option for many. Some try physical therapy with stretching exercises, and anti-inflammatory medicines or creams. Others try special shoes with varying levels of support. Orthotic specialists are sometimes involved. Surgery is possible but a last resort option. This condition can wax and wane and is tough to heal as there is little blood supply and running or even the wrong shoes can cause a recurrence. Fasciitis and tendinitis are sometimes hard to differentiate but the treatment is similar.
Dr. Robert Klapper, chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles thinks this is an overuse problem. He also suggests lack of stretching and the wrong type of shoes play a major role. Weight gain and simply the ageing process can also cause problems with the fascia in the foot.
What am I doing? Resting, wearing stiffer shoes with higher arches and being more careful with repetitive activities are a great place to start. I still have pain in the morning and I will let the world know when I get better or find the answer. I have bought some insoles that support my arch and my foot really does well in boots. I am considering an orthotic next. I am a little leery about putting too much strain on the foot. The fact that more and more are having problems suggests an environmental component as well.
What does not work? An arch bandage might help temporarily, but it will not change the structure of your arch and could hurt the circulation. Painkillers might help initially but is not a long-term fix. Getting too active before the foot heals is not a good idea.
The athletes in the article have not been able to practice their trade. It is hard to rest in our busy result-orientated society. Rest, the proper shoes with arch support, stretching exercises, judicious use of a non-steroidal cream, and keeping at a healthy weight seem to be the practical way to go. I am sure the press will have more to say about inflammation on the fascia and tendons of the foot (I wonder if fish have finache?).