It might be plantar fasciitis if you have had pain in the bottom of your feet for more than three months. Inflammation of the plantar fascia can cause this. It can be extremely uncomfortable and make walking or standing difficult.
Treatment options for plantar fasciitis can range from over-the-counter medications to surgery. Your physical therapist will recommend the best treatment for your condition and needs.
What is plantar fasciitis?
Physical therapists treat many foot conditions, including plantar fasciitis. It is a foot injury that can result in pain and stiffness. The pain often gets worse after standing or walking for long periods. Redness and swelling of the heels may also occur. If left untreated, these tiny tears could become more significant. It can result in a ruptured plantar fascia – a band of tissue running along the bottom of your feet.
Are there any risk factors associated with plantar fasciitis?
Obesity is a significant factor in developing plantar fasciitis. Being overweight and inactive puts more stress on your foot and worsens it.
Flat feet shift your weight toward the plantar fascia, putting it under more stress.
Wearing high heels puts more stress on women’s feet, and as a result, women face a greater risk of foot injuries.
Ankle and foot injuries can increase the risk of plantar fasciitis. The damage from previous injuries makes people more vulnerable to plantar fasciitis.
People who work in factories and teachers, who spend much more time standing on hard surfaces, are also at risk.
Activities like running or jumping can contribute to the development of plantar fasciitis.
Heel pain is most common in people between 30 and 60 because your skin loses elasticity as you age.
How do you diagnose plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a self-limiting condition. The basis of the diagnosis is by determining the symptoms of the patient. A physical examination is critical in the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. You may opt to visit a physical therapy clinic near you to perform this set of physical exams, or you can do it yourself.
- The pain worsen when you stand or walk, but it can improve after taking a few steps.
- You may feel tenderness in the middle of the ligament under your heel bone.
- If you press on this area, you may notice swelling at the bottom of your foot.
- Additionally, bending your foot upward or standing on tiptoe may be painful.
Some people find that self-care methods help them manage their plantar fasciitis symptoms. Others may need more specialized care. Seeing your doctor is important if the pain doesn’t go away with rest, self-care, and stretching.
Treatment options for plantar fasciitis
1. Conservative treatment
- Rest: Give your heel a break by cutting down on activities that may aggravate your heel pain.
- Ice: The best way to relieve foot pain is by icing it daily. This method will help reduce inflammation in the tissue around your feet.
- You can choose reusable gel packs or instant ice packs for plantar fasciitis – both works fine. Instant ice packs are ideal for first-aid emergencies. Reusable gel packs are suitable for treating chronic and acute ailments at home. If you buy gel packs, be sure to put them on the back of your heel, where your foot hurts. Click here to learn more about ice packs and how to use them.
- Icing combined with oral or topical NSAIDs may help ease discomfort. Use a thin towel to protect your heel from the cold. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
- Compression: Compressing the injured area reduces swelling and improves circulation. You can use compression socks or tape if you notice some swelling on your foot.
- Compression Socks: Compression socks can be beneficial for people with plantar fasciitis. They reduce the mobility of their feet by providing support to their arches and ankles. This method can help alignments improve and won’t stress out tissues much.
- Taping: Taping for plantar fasciitis can prevent the pain associated with this condition.
- Athletic and kinesiology tape are two forms of taping that physical therapists prescribe. Please keep in mind that athletic tape and kinesiology tape have different functions. You cannot use both tapes together to treat any injury. Here’s a link to an article to better understand the difference between these tapes.
- Elevation. By preventing blood from pooling at the site of injury, elevation may reduce pain and edema. Always elevate your feet higher than your heart.
2. Manual therapy
- Stretching: Stretching exercises can correct tightness in the calf muscles, providing faster relief.
- This can be done by wall stretches (Figure 1) and curb stair stretches (Figure 2).
- Stretch the calves using a slant board (Figure 3) or a piece of wood.
- Do dynamic stretches, such as rolling the foot arch over a can, a tennis ball (Figure 4), or a foot roller (Figure 5).
- Cross-friction massage (Figure 6) involves pressure to the bottom of your foot. You can also stretch using towels or resistant bands (Figure 7) throughout the day.
- Strengthening exercises: Doing toe-taps and towel curl exercises can help strengthen your foot muscles.
3. Non-surgical treatment
- Heel cups and Arch Supports: These provide excellent support for plantar fasciitis. Choose the correct insole for your plantar fasciitis; click here to learn more.
- Shoe Modifications and Orthotics: Adding in-soles or a heel cup to your shoes will help relieve some of the strain on your plantar fascia. Orthotics, like heel cups, should hold up the foot’s medial arch without placing direct pressure on the plantar fascia. You can add an opening to an orthotic to accommodate swelling and reduce ground pressure.
- Night splints: Most people naturally sleep with their feet bent. This splint causes the plantar fascia to be in a foreshortened position. The use of night splints is to keep the ankle in a neutral place overnight.
- Steroids: Injections of localized steroids into the muscle can temporarily relieve pain for up to three months. If done too often, however, the damage will be permanent.
- Surgery should be your last option for fixing plantar fasciitis. It can cause complications. Nerves can be damaged, parts of the plantar fascia can rupture, and arches of the foot can flatten.
Acupuncture is a form of traditional medicine. It helps alleviate plantar heel pain in various ways.
Acupuncture uses needles to relieve pain and stimulate healing. An acupuncturist inserts needles into specific points on the body, called acupuncture sites. Your body releases neuropeptides – substances that act like hormones. These neuropeptides have an analgesic effect, which decreases pain. Here’s a link to learn more about acupuncture.
2. Dry Needling
Physical therapists use the procedure called dry needling to relax muscles. The therapists insert needles into the root of the tense muscles. When the knots are pressed, your muscles twitch as a reflex. The twitching reflex helps you break out of pain cycles caused by muscle tension. Learn more about this procedure here.
How do you prevent plantar fasciitis?
To prevent plantar fasciitis:
- Take precautions before feeling symptoms and pain.
- Start new walking or jogging habit with shock-absorbing shoes to reduce foot shock and boost comfort.
- Make sure your shoes fit well. You shouldn’t wear them too loose or too tight.
- A snug fit is best keeping you from getting hurt.
- Try stretching your feet regularly before doing anything hard on them. This will help your foot be ready for the stress.
Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into plantar fasciitis and its treatment. If you have heel pain, don’t hesitate to have yourself checked by a doctor or a physical therapist.