Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Foot FAQ

Question:

Have you ever heard of cutting the calf muscle to relieve pain from plantar fasciitis? I'm not really wanting surgery but I've tried a boatload of ibuprofen, exercise, stretching and supplements. What do you know about this?

Answer:

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition affecting the bottom of the foot. It is a common cause of heel pain and is sometimes called a heel spur. The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue. It runs from the front of the heel bone (calcaneus) to the ball of the foot. This dense strip of tissue helps support the arch of the foot by acting something like the string on an archer's bow. Both the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendon attach to the calcaneus. The connections are separate in the adult foot. Although they function separately, there is an indirect relationship. Force generated in the Achilles' tendon increases the strain on the plantar fascia. The Achilles tendon is part of the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle. Studies show that lengthening the Achilles or gastrocnemius muscle can have a positive effect on a painful foot from plantar fasciitis. Taking the pull off the bone realigns the foot toward a more normal, midline position. When bones are in their proper place with the correct orientation, then the attached soft tissues can relax and function as they are supposed to. It is always recommended before trying any surgery for this condition that you follow a conservative approach daily for six weeks up to six months. Many patients report the use of medications, exercise, splinting, orthotics and so on but they haven't always applied these principles religiously everyday. If you have, indeed, followed through and still haven't gotten pain relief, then surgery like this one might just be indicated. Check with your surgeon and find out just what are your various options (including gastrocnemius muscle lengthening). John G. Anderson, et al. Treatment of Recalcitrant Foot Pain with Gastrocnemius Muscle Lengthening. In Current Orthopaedics Practice. May/June 2010. Vol. 21. No. 3. Pp. 251-257.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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