Foot pain can be one of the more debilitating health issues that individuals experience.  After all, an issue with one or both feet can make even the simplest activities like walking or climbing stairs very difficult.  In this post, we will define what plantar fasciitis actually is, and outline how to treat and resolve this painful medical condition.

The Plantar Fascia

The plantar fascia is a ligament that stretches from the heel bone to the toes in each foot.  The ligament helps to support the natural arch on the bottom of each foot.  When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, individuals will feel the pain most often concentrated in the heel area, even with simple activities such as standing or walking.  A key symptom of plantar fasciitis is a sharp pain in the foot upon taking a few steps after first waking in the morning, or after a substantial amount of inactivity.  This is because of the stretching that occurs upon use of the inflamed fascia after a period of rest.  Some people also report referred leg pain and cramps along with their plantar fasciitis.  Left untreated, plantar fasciitis can cause the heel area to develop painful bone spurs.  Bone spurs are the body’s attempt to provide strength and support through bone growth, in order to compensate for the plantar fascia’s inability to function properly.

 

Causes of Plantar Fasciitis

There are multiple factors that can increase a person’s chance of having issues with plantar fasciitis.  People who are on their feet a lot or people who engage in strenuous sports such as running often come down with a case of plantar fasciitis, especially if they often choose poor shoewear that does not provide proper support for the arches in their feet.  Women who wear flip-flops a lot during the summer and/or high heels also increase their risk of having heel pain, due to the unsupportive nature of those types of footwear.  Obesity and advancing age can also be factors as extra weight puts more strain on the feet and as one ages, ligaments such as the plantar fascia tend to weaken.  Other things that increase one’s chances of having plantar fasciitis are high arches and/or having an abnormal walking pattern.

 

Treatments

In order to help reduce those first few painful steps upon waking, a doctor may prescribe a night splint/boot for their patients to wear.  By wearing a specially designed boot during sleep, the plantar fascia stays continually stretched, allowing patients to avoid the pain that normally would occur when an inflamed fascia is initially stretched upon use in the morning.  Proper footwear is also essential for those with plantar fasciitis.  Depending upon the cause of the inflammation, a patient might simply need a better quality running shoe.  Of course, even good quality running or walking shoes should be replaced when they wear out.  A good rule of thumb is to replace footwear every 300 to 500 miles and wearing a fitness tracker is a good way for people who run or are on their feet a lot to track their mileage.

 

For others who may have mechanical issues with their feet such as falling arches, a doctor may prescribe custom-fit orthotics for their patients to wear.  Orthotics are placed in shoes to help provide essential support for foot components such as the fascia and/or arches.  A doctor may also prescribe a series of physical therapy treatments for those with stubborn cases of plantar fasciitis.  A physical therapist can evaluate patients to determine if they have any issues with walking such as under or overpronation, they can make recommendations on footwear, and can prescribe a series of exercises designed to stretch and strengthen key areas of the feet and calves in order to help the plantar fascia heal.  They can also teach their patients how to use a tennis or golf ball for self-myofascial release and when to use items such as ice packs for pain relief.

 

If you need pain relief from plantar fasciitis, please contact us at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab at 570-208-2787 or email us at:  cawleyptfrank@gmail.com.

Article written by Dr. Heather Marsico.

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