SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — You’ve probably heard the expression “my dogs are barking” as a way to describe aching feet. Sometimes a foot soak or an ice pack isn’t enough to provide relief.

An increasing number of people suffer from a burning, stabbing foot pain called plantar fascitis. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller looked into what causes it, how it can be be treated and how it can lead to other physical problems if ignored.

A chronic, searing pain in her left foot brought Mary Beth Lingle into the podiatrist’s office. “It’s been off and on I would say probably for about six or seven years.”

She’s one of the more than three million people each year diagnosed with a foot flare-up called plantar fasciitis. The condition occurs when the foot’s shock absorbing ligament called the plantar fascia suffers inflammation or even small tears from too much tension or stress. “I thought it was heel spurs and that I would just, you know, maybe staying off my feet or icing it or just rest would help it. I didn’t realize the extent of it,” said Mary Beth.

Commonwealth Health Podiatrist Laura Virtue-Delayo, DPM said, “The pain is usually in the central heel but some people have it up into their arch. This ligament actually does run across the entire bottom of your foot.”

Some people develop plantar fasciitis from jobs that keep them on their feet. Others get it from stressful exercises like distance running, foot mechanics and even obesity. Even footwear with inadequate support can be a trigger. “When you’re in a flat shoe, all your weight is on your heel and not on the forefoot,” said Dr. Virtue-Delayo.

Mary Beth has received textbook conservative treatment for her plantar fasciitis — including icing her feet, receiving cortisone injections and doing special stretching exercises at home. She even wore a specialized boot for a time when she went to bed. Mary Beth said, “That seemed to help because it’s a boot. It kind of goes like this and that’s how you sleep.” 

Since Mary Beth is still experiencing pain, Dr. Virtue-Delayo prescribed the next step in her physical treatment: physical therapy. Both Mary Beth and her doctor are hopeful surgery won’t be necessary. “Most people really don’t need it if they do the conservative stuff correctly,” said Dr. Virtue-Delayo. 

Merely changing the way you walk to minimize the pain of plantar fasciitis could lead to other foot problems as well as knee, hip and back issues. If you have foot pain that’s not going away, don’t ignore it. Discuss it with your doctor.