Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of pain in the foot, causing approximately 2 million people a year to seek treatment. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people will experience plantar fasciitis in their lifetime. The plantar fascia is a long, thin ligament on the bottom of the foot that connects the front of the foot to the heel and supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia becomes irritated and inflamed. It is a treatable condition, not usually requiring surgery, and can respond well to treatments such as physical therapy.
Symptoms of plantar fasciitis
The plantar fascia is intended to absorb the stresses and strains that are placed on your feet when doing any activity involving walking, running or playing sports. Sometimes the pressure becomes too much and the tissue is damaged or torn. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis can include:
- Pain in the arch of your foot or heel; typically most painful in the morning.
- Swelling around your heel.
- Tightness in your Achilles’ tendon.
This pain can be experienced when you first get up and start walking. It can also be triggered when you have been standing or sitting for long periods of time. The pain can lessen as you go through your normal activities or warm up before exercising, but it can become worse after prolonged or vigorous activity. The pain may also be worse when walking barefoot.
Common causes of plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the plantar fascia is overused or has been stretched too far. Things that can cause this to occur can include:
- Being on your feet for extended periods of time.
- Playing sports.
- New or increased physical activity.
- Exercising on a hard surface.
- Skipping stretching and not warming up before working out.
- Repetitive high-impact activities (running or dancing).
- Wearing unsupportive footwear.
- Walking or standing barefoot.
- Age (most common between ages 40 and 60).
- High arches.
- Flat feet.
- Certain medical conditions.
A health care provider usually won’t need to run any tests to diagnose plantar fasciitis. However, they may use imaging to take pictures of your foot to rule out any other issues or conditions that could be causing heel pain.
Treatments for plantar fasciitis
If left untreated, plantar fasciitis can lead to chronic heel pain. This can lead to overcompensation to avoid the pain and lead to further issues such as foot, knee, hip or back problems. Treatments for plantar fasciitis can include:
- Over-the-counter medications — Over-the-counter medications like aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation. It is important not to take these medications for an extended period of time without consulting your health care provider.
- Rest — Resting your plantar fascia for at least a week if possible can be beneficial in giving it time to heal.
- Cold therapy — Using cold therapy by icing the afflicted foot can help reduce inflammation. It is important that you use a barrier between the ice pack, frozen veggies, or frozen water bottle used and your skin to help prevent damage from exposure from the cold.
- Supportive shoes — It can be helpful to prevent or ease plantar fasciitis by wearing the proper shoes for the activity you are doing. You want well-cushioned and sturdy shoes to best support your arches.
- Orthotics or inserts — If your shoes are lacking support but are sturdy, adding orthotics or other supportive inserts may help.
- Immobilization — In some cases, your health care provider may recommend you wear a walking boot for a few weeks. This boot can help hold your foot in place and help relieve the pressure on your plantar fascia, giving it time to rest and heal without drastically affecting your mobility.
- Physical therapy — A licensed physical therapist can use physical therapy techniques and recommend stretches to help you relieve plantar fasciitis pain.
Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis
You can help prevent or ease your plantar fasciitis in a number of ways, including physical therapy. Physical therapy is an effective treatment option and can help your plantar fasciitis heal more quickly. Despite the benefits of seeking physical therapy, typically only 7% of those recommended to seek physical therapy actually receive treatment. Physical therapy treatments that can help plantar fasciitis can include:
- Manual therapy — Manual therapy techniques like soft tissue mobilization can be beneficial in helping plantar fasciitis. It can help break down scar tissue, which can improve the flexibility of the plantar fascia. It can also help improve inflammation.
- Therapeutic exercises — Therapeutic exercises can be an essential part of a physical therapy treatment plan to help plantar fasciitis. These exercises are intended to help stretch and strengthen the muscles and tissue in the calf and the foot, improve your flexibility, and promote healing of the plantar fascia.
- Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is an instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization technique of manual therapy in physical therapy. A physical therapist will use specialized stainless steel instruments to help loosen or break up scarred, fibrous or tight tissue.
- Dry needling — Dry needling is a technique used by licensed physical therapists by inserting thin, sterile needles into trigger points to help relieve pain, improve range of motion, and boost circulation to promote healing. It can be an effective physical therapy treatment to help with plantar fasciitis.
Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can help you find relief from your plantar fasciitis
If you are struggling with the pain caused by plantar fasciitis, Forever Fit Physical Therapy & Wellness can help. Our team of licensed physical therapists are ready to create an individualized treatment plan with a combination of techniques intended to help ease your pain. We can help you improve your mobility, reduce your pain and help you return to your normal activities. Plantar fasciitis doesn’t have to keep you on the sidelines of life; physical therapy can help.
Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.