Do you know the difference between plantar fasciitis and stress fracture? If not, you are not alone. While they are in similar conditions, it can be difficult to tell them apart.
So, whether you have plantar fasciitis or a Stress Fracture, knowing the difference between both will help you understand your problem better, understand what causes it and aid in its treatment.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis leads to inflammation and microtears in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs from your toes to your heel bone at the bottom of your foot. Pain may occur where the fascia attaches to the heel. Athletes, overweight individuals, and people who wear shoes without adequate support are more likely to suffer from this problem.
What is Stress Fracture?
Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone caused by repetitive forces instead of a single impact. It can result from overuse or a weak bone, but osteoporosis (where the bones become brittle and susceptible to fractures) can also cause heel/calcaneal stress fractures.
Long periods of standing, especially if one carries heavy loads, may lead to stress fractures. A stress fracture can also occur if people change to an active lifestyle abruptly from a passive one without giving their bodies time to adjust.
Causes for Plantar Fasciitis and Stress Fracture
Overuse or injury to the arch causes plantar fasciitis. Inflammation and damage result in severe heel pain, particularly in the morning. Various factors can lead to plantar fasciitis, including:
- Exercise sessions that are too intense, significantly if the muscles and ligaments don’t warm up beforehand
- An increase in body weight that puts extra pressure on your arches
- Standing or walking without supportive shoes or arch supports
- Poorly distributed weight on the feet caused by flat or high arches
The most common causes of stress fractures are overuse, injury, and bone health. A stress fracture can occur during everyday activities if you have osteoporosis or are taking medications that weaken your bones. The following factors can cause stress fractures:
- Exercising in a high intensity without building endurance
- Insufficient rest in between workouts
- Running, walking, or exercising on hard, uneven surfaces
- Wearing shoes that are poorly fitted or inadequately supportive
- A weakening of the bones due to osteoporosis or medications
- A diet that lacks vitamins D and calcium
Symptoms for Plantar Fasciitis and Stress Fracture
The easiest way to tell if you have Plantar fasciitis (and not a stress fracture) is that your foot hurts when you first move in the morning, but it gets better as you move. Some of the symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis are:
- Stiff heels and arches
- The heel and arch are swollen and red
- Inactivity or morning pain
- Pain that subsides when you rest, stretch, and ice
- A dull, chronic pain or sharp pain that makes you limp
Stress fractures cause sudden onsets of intense pain. A stress fracture may result from a fall or a sudden impact, or it can occur when the bones in the heel or foot do not have time to heal from micro-injuries sustained during exercise. The following symptoms may be present.
- Pain that gets worse the longer you’re on your feet
- Tenderness and intense pain at one point in the foot or heel
- The fracture site is swollen and red
- Stretching causes pain
In almost all cases of plantar fasciitis, conservative treatment methods can remove inflammation and improve foot support. The standard treatments include:
- Exercising regularly
- A cold compress on the heel and plantar fascia
- A properly fitting shoe that supports your toes, heel, and fascia
- Utilizing orthotics like heel seats regularly
- Diet changes (to avoid inflammatory foods) and weight control
- The use of anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, to manage pain
Your doctor may recommend the following treatments:
- Eliminate the cause of pain by stopping the activity
- Icing the injured area (10 minutes) or massaging it with ice cubes (3 to 5 minutes)
- Spend two to eight weeks resting
- Pain and swelling are relieved with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Footwear that reduces stress on the foot or leg
Plantar fasciitis and Stress Fractures can easily trick you because they both hurt. A Stress Fracture won’t ache every day as Plantar Fasciitis does (because it has set in, while Plantar Fasciitis gets worse every day).