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When I step on the floor, excruciating pain shoots up my foot as though a knife is piercing through. It impairs me from accomplishing the simplest of tasks.

I am plagued by plantar fasciitis after having heel spur surgery. The pain is on the bottom of my foot, and is at its worst when I wake up in the morning, and after exercising or standing for too long.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates about 2 million people every year are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. According to the AAOS, the plantar fascia is what supports the arch of the foot. It can become inflamed and painful with overuse, repetitive movement, stretching and tearing, or if a person is overweight.

“It is the most common foot condition in the world,” said Dr. Beau Shay, a podiatric surgeon at ORA Orthopedics in Bettendorf. 

The condition can be treated with physical therapy; immobility, where the foot is placed in a boot; stretching and massaging the fascia; rolling a golf ball under the foot; sports tape; orthotics; steroid injections; icing; rest; anti-inflammatory medication and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which uses low-voltage electrical current to relieve pain.

“Our goal is to calm the inflammation to avoid further damage," Dr. Shay said.

I have done them all. 

If treatments do not work, the fascia can be partially cut during surgery to relieve the tension.

Heel spurs develop when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel, and calcium deposits form a bony growth. Spurs can grow on the bottom of the foot, or the back if the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. They can be treated without surgery.

According to the AAOS, while patients with plantar fasciitis may have heel spurs, they are not the cause of the pain. One in 10 patients have spurs, but only 5 percent have pain.

To prevent plantar fasciitis and heel spurs, doctors advise proper stretching before and after exercise. 

And "don’t ignore pain,” Dr. Shay said. “Try to get treatment early on when the pain begins to prevent surgery.” 

My foot issues began in 2010 after running continuously and ignoring the pain. I was diagnosed with a heel spur, and wore a boot and went to physical therapy.

I healed, and in 2015, I trained and ran the Quad Cities Marathon, which landed me at ORA Orthopedics again, where an X-ray showed a large back heel spur. In November, Dr. Shay detached and reattached my Achilles tendon to remove an inch of bony growth.

After recovery, I was back on my feet, but not for long. I developed plantar fasciitis  — the procedure had tightened my fascia.  

“Everyone heals differently, and it’s not rare for this to happen,” Dr. Shay said.

But my healing has taken longer than I had hoped.

“I tell patients that returning to full activity is no sooner than six months,” he said. “It’s important that the patient not rush the healing process, and that they follow the instructions the physician has given them to help with a smoother recovery.”

Martha Garcia is a writer, communications instructor and bilingual marketing professional who lives in Bettendorf. She can be contacted at marthagarciawriter@yahoo.com.

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