Cases of plantar fibroma are rare compared to other painful foot conditions. Even if you have it, it may take a long time before you notice the growth on the arch of your foot. However, left untreated, plantar fibroma can grow and cause mild discomfort and pain when wearing shoes, walking barefoot, or putting any pressure on your foot.
But what is a plantar fibroma? Here’s an overview of this condition, how it affects you, and your options for treatment for plantar fibroma. If you think your foot pain is caused by plantar fibroma, schedule an appointment with Yeargain Foot & Ankle to rule out other more severe conditions.
What Is a Plantar Fibroma?
Plantar fibromas are nodules that typically develop along one or both of your feet’s arches. They grow in ligaments, the plantar fascia, which connect your heel to the front of your foot. Each band supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock absorber.
A plantar fibroma was also once commonly known as Ledderhose disease, though this term isn’t often used today. It’s possible for these fibrous lumps to develop on both ligaments on either foot. In some instances, multiple nodules can develop.
Plantar fibroma nodules are benign, which means they are non-cancerous. Some may notice lumps that get smaller or disappear without seeking treatment. However, those who experience pain may affect their quality of life and can explore non-invasive treatment for plantar fibroma before resorting to more invasive solutions. Duputren’s contracture is a similar phenomenon causing nodules on the fingers and palms.
There’s no exact cause, though some specialists believe they directly result from stress or trauma to the plantar fascia, which leads to myofibroblast and collagen proliferation. You might not notice the lump initially because of its size. Left unchecked, it can cause issues like foot pain.
Signs & Symptoms of Plantar Fibroma
The most common sign that you may have plantar fibroma is a firm lump along the arch of your foot. This nodule can remain shrink, maintain its size, or grow over time, though the cause for this is unknown. It’s also possible for other lumps to grow around the original one.
Not all patients report pain when wearing shoes, walking barefoot, or any activity that involves putting pressure on the lump. Depending on the size of your plantar fibroma, you can experience some strain on your foot, similar to having a stone in your shoe.
Who Gets Plantar Fibromas?
Anyone can get plantar fibroma. However, people who are more likely to develop them include:
- Older adults between the ages of 40 to 60 are more likely to develop plantar fibromas than younger adults.
- Men are twice as likely to develop plantar fibromas than women, though the reason is still unclear.
- Some studies suggest that plantar fibromas are genetic, so you might be more likely to develop them if someone in your immediate family (typically parents or grandparents) has them.
How Common Are Plantar Fibromas?
Plantar fibromas are relatively rare compared to other causes of foot pain. Studies have shown that plantar fibromas are rare and only affect less than 200,000 people in the United States annually. It becomes more prevalent in middle-aged or older adults, with up to 25% developing the disease. Plantar fibromas occur in both feet in roughly 25% of cases.
Plantar Fibroma vs. Plantar Fasciitis
Both conditions affect your plantar fascia, but symptoms and treatment can vary. Plantar fibromas are lumps or nodules on your ligament, which may not be painful initially. It can grow, causing pressure in the area, which can cause discomfort under specific factors.
Plantar fasciitis, on the other hand, causes pain from an inflamed ligament that triggers heel pain. It triggers inflammation of the plantar fascia caused by stress or an injury to the bottom of the heel. Although both can cause pain in the arch of your foot, the reason for your discomfort is different.
Diagnosis of Plantar Fibroma
A medical professional can diagnose you through a medical exam and imaging tests. They will examine your foot and press on the affected area. At times, this can produce pain that extends down to your toes. Additional tests may be performed to confirm the plantar fibroma, including:
- X-Ray: An x-ray ensures no issues or changes in the bones in your foot around the lump.
- Ultrasound: A musculoskeletal ultrasound can examine the node and measure its size and depth.
- MRI: An MRI scan will confirm the mass is a fibroma and rule out cysts, another type of benign growth.
Treatment for Plantar Fibroma
Non-surgical treatment for plantar fibroma may help relieve the pain of a plantar fibroma. Not all treatments for plantar fibroma will make the mass disappear, but in most cases, you will not need surgery to relieve the pain of the nodule.
- Steroid Injections: A corticosteroid medication injected into the nodule may help decrease the size and reduce or relieve the pain. This reduction may be temporary, and the fibroma could eventually return to its original size.
- Orthotic Devices or Custom Inserts: These may relieve the pain by redistributing the patient’s weight away from the fibroma.
- Physical Therapy: This is often used to treat plantar fibromas by delivering anti-inflammatory medication into the fibroma without needing an injection. Stretches provided by physical therapy can also help decrease stress and tension in the plantar fibroma.
Plantar Fibroma Surgery
Surgery could be considered if the mass increases in size or pain and all less invasive options have been ineffective.
- Surgical Removal: The traditional method of removing the plantar fibroma is often used if the patient continues to experience pain following non-surgical approaches. This may lead to the flattening of the arch or the development of hammertoes based on the size and location of the nodule. Orthotic devices can be prescribed to support the arch and prevent further recurrence. Due to the high incidence of recurrence with this condition, continued follow-up is recommended.
- Ultrasound Debridement: This is a new minimally invasive technique that can be utilized to debride the fibrous tissue of the plantar fibroma without affecting the healthy areas of the plantar fascia.
How Do You Get Rid of a Plantar Fibroma Naturally?
At-home stretches or exercises can reduce signs and symptoms of plantar fibroma. These exercises consist of stretching the calf muscles and the plantar fascia.
Wearing over-the-counter inserts can also be beneficial when the plantar fibroma is first noticed to help prevent it from growing. Custom orthotics may provide a better and longer result, though you must see a foot and ankle specialist.
Can You Break Down a Plantar Fibroma?
Attempting to break down a plantar fibroma at home is not recommended. Physical therapy can use ultrasound or shockwave therapy to help break down adhesions and can reduce the size of plantar fibroma nodules.
How Long Does It Take for a Plantar Fibroma To Go Away?
Unfortunately, there’s no known duration for a plantar fibroma to go away independently. They may shrink or disappear independently in some instances.
Seek Treatment Options for Plantar Fibroma at Yeargain Foot & Ankle
A plantar fibroma isn’t life-threatening but can cause pain and affect your quality of life. While most patients manage their condition with over-the-counter solutions, more severe cases may need to seek more invasive solutions. Schedule your appointment with Yeargain Foot & Ankle to discuss your condition with Dr. Yeargain and Dr. Agyen and consider the most appropriate solutions for plantar fibroma treatment.